Okay so let’s get one thing out of the way. Mr. Shifty is similar to Hotline Miami. It’s not ‘Hotline Miami meets x’ or a new take on the formula, it’s a top-down action game that shares various similarities with everyone’s favorite neon-soaked murder-and-drugs simulator. However, Mr. Shifty very much does its own thing in the top-down action genre
For one, it’s much more light-hearted. Mr. Shifty has a cartoon-ish, comic-book aesthetic and tonally, it’s nowhere near as intense or violent as Hotline Miami. You play as Shifty, a highly skilled thief with the ability to teleport around rapidly, a-la-Nightcrawler (the Xmen character, not the crazy dude Jake Gyllenhaal played). This, of course, is the game’s central mechanic, and it allows you to zip around the room in short bursts. You’re tasked with breaking into the most secure building in the world and stealing a valuable item. Your character can’t use guns, so your main strategy is to teleport around rapidly and knock enemies out. You get some melee weapons and stuff to throw every so often, but for the most part you’re supposed to duke it out with your fists. Your enemies, of course, are armed with a variety of boomsticks, and so your challenge is to avoid their bullets and take them out.
You master this formula pretty quickly, and the gameplay becomes a standard mix of teleport, punch, teleport punch. You can mix things up by teleporting just as an enemy fires so that the bullet hits a buddy of his behind you, but this technique was a little finicky (you have to hope the dude who’s shooting at you is pointing exactly at the one behind you) and in bigger fights it’s easier to just use the basics. You also have a passive ability that charges up, and when it’s ready it’ll save you from one bullet by freezing time if you’re about to get hit.
The gameplay is very fun and the punching has a nice weight to it, but it starts to feel formulaic. Luckily, before long the game switches things up and starts introducing all sorts of other challenges. For starters, the teleport mechanic starts being used to dodge obstacles such as laser beams and turrets. Later on, you encounter different types of security measures (I won’t spoil it) and these actually force you to think about how to proceed through the levels.
When these challenges layer, the game becomes a fun mix of combat and dodging, and you get a real sense of immersion. Unfortunately, the game is a bit on the short side, and I was able to knock it out in two sittings. I will say that the 3 or so hours I dropped on the game were very fun, and I kept wondering what was coming next. While I mind the game’s length, I’ll also give it credit for not artificially making the difficulty harder. I’m always a fan of balanced difficulty curves, and Mr. Shifty manages to keep the challenge in the sweet spot between demanding and frustrating.
I will say that I feel Mr. Shifty could have done more to distinguish itself aesthetically. Visually, it’s a pretty standard comic-book deal, but in terms of the soundtrack it’s just a basic rock-and-roll riff. I’d have preferred a little variety in that regard. Otherwise, Mr. Shifty is a fun action title that will definitely grab your attention for a few hours.
Mr. Shif was reviewed using an PC digital code of the game provided by Team Shifty.The main review was done on a PC running Windows 10, with an 8GB NVIDIA Geforce GTX 1070 fitted on a 4th Generation Intel i7 4790 3.6Ghz CPU and topped with 16GB of RAM. The game is also available on the Nintendo Switch in its digital store. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• Fun central mechanic
• Fluid combat
• Variety of obstacles and enemies
• Kind of a short game
• Aesthetically unremarkable