I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect with this game as it has been a while since I’ve played much on P.C. Team Shifty, a group of developers from Halfbrick (Fruit Ninja et al) created this fast paced top down adventure, with a highly destructible environment, despite its simple graphics. It was instantly addictive.
After taking some time to get used to the controls, pretty standard (W,A,S,D and click left mouse button) for those of you used to P.C. gaming, I jumped right in. My son had already played through the first few levels and loved it, so it had the moody teen stamp of approval. That left me several levels into the game, facing foes with shotguns and automatic weapons. Once I found my feet though, this game was a hoot. The simple but effective cell shaded graphics, the top down view, and the tongue in cheek humor, all work to create a fun experience.
The point of the game is simple, get in, take out the bad guys, and don’t get shot. The plot is light, but the limited interaction with the villain is humorous and enough to give you a reason to progress to the next level.
When the bad guy asks why you are trying to stop him; and his guess is “it’s dead parents isn’t it. It’s always dead parents.” You realize that this game is not taking itself too seriously.
The simple game play, level by level, punching your way through thugs, is therapeutic but still offers a challenge. The added “shift” mechanic allows you to bypass the guarded doorways and get behind your foes, but you still need to remain vigilant, because one shot and you are dead. This requires you to think fast and move faster than your opponents. Once they start to introduce shotguns and the number of thugs starts to increase, this can be a real challenge. There are some real memorable moments though; the first time you bust up a statue and take its head to throw at an enemy, the first time you back into a doorway to avoid a shotgun blast and get to enjoy the site of one thug gunning down another as he misses you.
The shift mechanic works well. You have limited “charges” but they refresh pretty quickly. Using the shift to dodge bullets at the last second, or appear right behind a group of thugs to take them down with a quick one two combo, is pretty fulfilling. There is also a slow motion mechanic available, once you get enough kills to charge it up, which allows you to “Matrix” your way through tough sections without getting hit.
The gameplay is fun, but like the level games of old, it can become a bit repetitive. For the player who likes to test himself, getting through levels without dying, or finding the best way to take down enemies using the environment, I think this game will be a huge hit. For gamers used to a high degree of variation in game levels, this may not be what you are looking for. But I would challenge you to at least try it out, and after shifting to avoid a thug shooting you, then appearing behind him to pushing him out the window, tell me you didn’t feel a little twinge of satisfaction.
I had an absolute blast with this game!
I picked up a copy on the Switch, and yes…it was buggy, as you may have heard, but not to the point where it was unplayable. I’ve read the reviews online, and some people are claiming that the glitch has killed them multiple times, but for me, it was more of a stuttering vibration in my hand and a momentary pause in-game, where Shifty just froze for a second in place and then moved on. I did not die once where I would attribute it to the glitch (which, by the way, is being patched, so don’t let that discourage you from this game). However, on the final level, right before the last boss…it did glitch to the point where the game shut down and I had to restart the level, which was annoying, but it didn’t do it again.
Now, for me, this game was like Die Hard, if Bruce Willis dressed like he did Unbreakable and could suddenly teleport. There isn’t much of a story here…and there doesn’t need to be one. The game begins as a thief breaking into a very tall office building to steal something. He runs afoul of the business owner, who just so happens to have a plethora of heavily-armed guards with rocket launchers, grenades, machine guns, shotguns…and a few ninjas. Needless to say, things escalate pretty quickly, and what begins as a quick smash and grab develops into 18 levels of joy-inducing mayhem.
Yes, the levels are mostly destroyable, and there is supreme glee in tossing someone through a window, but the fun for me happened when I picked up the shield. There are so many different weapons that Shifty picks up during his adventure…from vases, brooms and wooden beams to statue heads, swords, shields, ninja staffs, and even Zeus’ lightning bolt. The shield is hands-down the best. You find them periodically throughout the game mounted on statues, it doesn’t break like most of the other weapons, and you throw it like Captain America, mowing down multiple assailants if aimed right, and then you can grab it again and again. I’ve mowed down literal battalions.
One of the best parts of the game, however, is the humor. It’s subtle, but it’s there. Like the music. Every time you finish a level and climb into the elevator, the tunes flip from a rocking, driving actiony beat to a very bouncy, jazzy muzak. Which is perfect. Of course, the bad guy and female sidekick poke fun of the usual cliches that follow the action genre, rather than falling into those familiar traps themselves.
While I did say the game doesn’t really need a deep story to work, having one would have only made it better. I’m a guy who cut his video game teeth on RPG’s because I want to lose myself in characters and discover new worlds. This isn’t that. There’s little surprise to the plot. If this were a movie, it wouldn’t take home any award nominations, but it would make bank at the box office, because it’s a fun, popcorn guzzling, summer blockbuster. And, also, for what it is, it’s a bit repetitive at times. You have no life bar, no hearts. We’re talking one-hit kills…over and over again. But the stages are always the same, every time, and the bad guys follow a pattern. You work your way through the levels pretty typically by forging ahead, by being persistent. If your tactics don’t work the first time, you can change them up just enough to try again the next go. And the one-hit kills…I don’t think I’ve ever sworn so much playing a game. My swear jar is so full that I’ll be able to pay cash for the next three sequels, should the Team Shifty and TinyBuild take that route. I would have liked to see maybe a kevlar vest upgrade, allowing you to take an extra hit, or maybe a personal forcefield generator, absorbing a few blows.
The controls on Switch were simple and effective. One button to teleport, one button to attack, and one to pick up/throw items. The game has a cool mechanic that allows you to see where you’re going to TP to, and nearly all the gunners have laser pointers to help you stay out of their cross-hairs.
All that being said, this was the best Switch game I’ve played after Zelda, beating out some of the bigger juggernauts like Bomberman, and I’ll be first in line to purchase the sequel on day one, should we be fortunate enough to get another heist.
With a quirky humor and a fast-paced, highly addictive gameplay style, Mr. Shifty has something for the hardcore gamer and casual player alike. However, the lack of deep story and repetitive nature keep this from its true potential.
Let us know what you think of the game in the comments section below.