Game genres are in a constant state of flux: some stick around and others disappear over the horizon seemingly gone forever. Back in the late 90's top-down shooters were big both in arcades and home gaming systems. This was obviously partly down to game developers working with limited resources and top-down shooters could provide exciting gameplay without fancy visuals. Hotline Miami released a few years back and was an instant success: blending hyper-violent combat into an old school retro shooter. The key to its success was the speed at which you could fly through the various scenes and the sheer satisfaction of a well-timed series of takedowns. Retro gaming is now the domain of the indie developers and it's great to see Tiny Build (the developers of Mr Shifty) making their mark with such style.
'Didn't see that coming?'
Mr Shifty is a title I would say looks heavily inspired by games like Hotline but also other fast paced shooters. If you then imagine the main character as Tracer from Overwatch, add some cool physics destruction and you will have an idea of what to expect from Mr Shifty. The UI has a bar containing five teleport points, all of which allow you to teleport a few feet. These points can be used whenever you wish and will recharge almost instantly. While this is obviously a powerful ability Mr Shifty cannot take any damage and does not use guns: unlike the many enemies standing in his way. Teleportation is the big stick for this game and is a key component to how the various levels fit together. Once within melee range, you can punch ten colours of crap out of your foes before darting away. As you fight another bar builds and when full you have the ability to slow time when bullets come your way: this is another cool mechanic which helps when getting swamped. You can teleport through walls, past bullets and just about anywhere within range. You can also pick up various items to either throw or use for a more effective melee attacks.
The balance between how fast you can move and how fast the enemies can engage feels absolutely perfect. This means most confrontations are razor sharp and leave you feeling totally empowered. As you move from level to level there are no loading times (at least on PC) and on death, you are instantly thrown back at the game within seconds. This lightning fast turnaround means you can play relentlessly for hours, which for me has led to a few very late nights of 'just one more try'.
Aesthetically the game is fairly colourful and sports a clean visual style with an almost comic book feel to it all. Most items you can see will break and even walls can be (and must be) punched through from time to time. Mr Shifty is lacking any of the blood and guts from some of its more adult themed competitors but this is just a matter of design.
Lost the plot
Your objective is to break into a maximum security tower and steal a plutonium core: without getting nobbled by said security. There is no real plot here and the characters are cliched to the point of comedy, which reminds me of the way Renegade Ops handled plot enablers. You do have an operator giving you mission updates but Nyx is about as useful as a chocolate teapot (if occasionally funny). The developers have clearly decided not to take things too seriously and I think this was the right decision. Ultimately the paper thin story and characters are not why you are going play Mr Shifty: they just serve as a platform on which the action can exist.
This might be one of the shortest reviews I've ever published and that is because I don't need pages to say the obvious: at some point, you should take a look at Mr Shifty. Even on release, it's priced right, is well made and simply impossible not to have fun with. The only real criticism I can give is that you see all the games tricks very early on and some players might start to feel like the end few levels are throwing you the same slice of pie.
If you do think this game might be up your street just be aware the developers recommend a controller for the best way to play Mr Shifty and I would echo this advice. With more console based games now making their way over to PC, I'd always recommend you pick up one of the original Xbox controllers for games like this. Let's hope Mr Shifty sells well and the team at Tiny Build decide to expand on a very promising first game in this IP.
Thank you for reading my review of Mr Shifty on PC. I have seen that the Switch version is experiencing poor framerate issues due to hardware limitations, so just be aware of this. If you don't already you can follow me on Twitter @riggedforepic Please come back soon for more PC related reviews and articles.