A bad guy, a good-ish guy, and an objective. These are the basic ingredients that are used to form action stories, both good and bad, epic and forgettable. Many action heroes have faced a ridiculous amount of adversity, but managed to come out on top, toppling [insert generic evil villain name here] time and time again. Team Shifty and Tiny Build bring to the plate yet another tale of action filled exploits all in the name of the greater good, but with one particularly big change of pace and boy is it a fun one. That very change of pace is one in the same with both the title and development teams’ namesake: Shifting. Ever thought how much better of a thief Robin Hood would be if he could blast around the forest like Nightcrawler? Probably not, but now you might be thinking about that very possibility. Mr. Shifty makes that concept a reality, and a very fun one at that. When Chairman Stone, a dastardly corporate son-of-a-gun, plans on doing some equally dastardly deeds with a substance known as mega plutonium, it’s up to Mr. Shifty and his supportive contact Nyx to bring those plans to a crashing halt.
Taking all those details into account, you may catch the drift that the story is rather, well, generic. You would not be wrong. The game has many been here, done that tropes, but it is all about the gameplay here. Mr. Shifty phases in, fists blazing in this fast paced beat-em-up. Like Hotline Miami before it, Mr. Shifty is very much an on-your toes style of gameplay, with enemies being able to end your run with only a single shot. Unlike Hotline Miami though, you only fight with your fists and a variety of melee weapons, with not a gun in site for the exceptionally skilled thief. Mr. Shifty has no need though, as his unique set of skills gives him a clear advantage early on. His “shifting” ability allows him to phase through walls, dodge bullets, and traverse quickly with ease. This adds to the intensity behind the combat system, one that grows from balanced to challenging then straight up chaotic over the course of the game.
You will fight a variety of enemies over the games 18 stage offerings. You have your basic shooters, brawlers, heavy gunners and even the occasional ninja. Adjusting to the different styles is a great way to challenge yourself in creative ways, forcing you to pick your kills precisely and efficiently for the best results. Aside from punches, you can grab a fair amount of weapons along the way. Most often it will be a two-by-four, which, like most of the weapons, has a several hit limit before breaking. Some weapons have no use at all, like pillows and stacks of cash. My personal favorite across the whole game is a shield which can be acquired by breaking a statue. This shield will NEVER break, and soon you will find yourself whizzing around rooms like a Red-Bull induced Captain America. It’s a great way to chain kills, with my personal best throw having routed five foes in a single throw. Towards the end, I cannot tell you how important it is to use and keep the shield as long as you can, because you will be fighting A LOT of enemies, and without that shield you will surely be out gunned. Shifting can only save you so long in these situations of being out-gunned, as you have an allotted five “shifts” that will recharge over time. If you take out enough baddies in a certain amount of time, you will get a sort of “free pass” from dying after filling up a combo bar, which will slow time the next time you are about to get pegged by an approaching bullet.
By far the gameplay is the shining force behind the title. I had a great time playing and the game screams fun, but that does not mean it was lacking elsewhere. Like I mentioned earlier, the story is lackluster, save for some mildly funny dialog from both Stone and Nyx. The dialog cannot excuse some of the other problems though. My main gripe is that Mr.Shifty offers no apparent reason to go back for more post-credits. Each stage keeps track of both your time and deaths, yet offer no ranks or leaderboards to make them worthwhile. If you get zero deaths, you will net a perfect classification, but this perfection alludes to no unlockable or anything of that nature to make it worthwhile. Even light customizations or collectables would have added something more robust to its lacking replayability. Aside from that, there are some light performance issues. The game crashed on me several times during my review process, forcing me to restart my stages from the start, as the game only tracks checkpoints on a per level basis, not indefinitely. There were also some performance slow-downs towards the end when things get a little out of hand. Nothing too deterring thankfully, but it did result in some untimely deaths.
Aside from those issues, Mr. Shifty is massive fun. The game plays really well and keeps your attention during the fights. It feels good to succeed and take out large crowds with ease. The title has style and gameplay down, but leaves a little more to be desired. Hopefully patches or updates can make the experience a bit more lavish, but I enjoyed Mr. Shifty at the end of the day. It fits well on the Switch and is a welcome addition to my small but growing collection, and if you want a quick experience that you are bound to have fun with I highly suggest you give Mr. Shifty a look. Be warned though, if you blink, you may miss him!
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 7.5/10
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