Mr. Shifty is a nice combination of speed and timing with some select traces of stealth stirred in for good measure. It’s a simple premise without too much being loaded on in terms of story. Your name is Mr. Shifty and you’re a bit faster than most people. Oh, and you can teleport about nine feet in any direction on demand. Throw in some extra strength and you’ve got yourself a thief that’s ready to kick ass and take down enemies with precision, grace, and from the shadows.
In Mr. Shifty you’ll be tasked with going through levels, taking down enemies, avoiding hazards like lasers and turrets, and at a quick and stylish pace as well. There will be enemies spread heavily in some portions but in other areas, it may just be some mines, lasers, or other hazards. Sometimes they will be combined in interesting ways as well. You’re able to teleport five times in succession before you have to wait for segments of your bar to replenish. If you’re careful you can move around enemies quickly, take them out, and have blocks replenish before you’re all out. This careful balance can allow you to chain attacks together without ever running out of your teleporting ability.
This top-down action game will present you with some interesting scenarios and possibilities if you listen closely to the game design. You can mash teleporting, run out, and die a lot before finally succeeding in some areas, or you can pay attention to the environments and use them to your advantage. Teleporting in the middle of enemies only to leave right before they start shooting can have them killing each other. Another neat trick is taking out enemies packing flamethrowers, running towards other enemies and having them follow you to the dead flamethrower toting enemy and then teleporting out of there. This will cause their equipment to explode and take them out while you laugh from the shadows. There are many kinds of scenarios where you can have enemies and the environment destroy each other and it won’t be long until you link all of these things together while throwing punches and leaving clouds of smoke all over the place as you teleport all over the area.
Some turrets will fire homing missiles at you and if you’re smart you can run towards other enemies and teleport behind them before they shoot you. The missiles will take them out and you never even had to slow down. In fact, once you get good enough at chaining together attacks, movement, and running, you’ll be able to get a good rhythm going and use the momentum to your advantage. The game rewards you for taking our enemies in quick succession too. You have a meter that will fill up as you take down enemies but it will drain in between kills, but if you’re quick enough you can fill it up and reap the benefits. See, when this meter is full an ability will be on standby until you need it. When a bullet flies past your or is about to this ability will automatically activate and slow down time for a few seconds. This can give you a few seconds to escape from harm’s way and kill a few enemies. It won’t always save your life though so I wouldn’t recommend relying on it. If a bullet is just straight up going to hit you then you’ll still die. The ability will activate when things are getting crazy and bullets are whizzing past you. If you’re about to get hit point blank then it’s still game over. Well, at least in that moment.
Another nice thing about Mr. Shifty that the developer made sure to get right is that there are no set number of lives. There are automatic checkpoints that are pretty close to each other and so when you die you just hit a button to respawn and try again. It keeps the speed going as much as possible while still encouraging you to rethink your strategy when you come back. Don’t worry though; these deaths will still smirk at you later. When you complete a level it will give you your completion time and your death count. There were definitely a few levels where I died over thirty times and it made me try harder in the next area because I realized I was being lazy and not giving it my all.
There are some really difficult spots in this game but the difficulty increases every so gradually. You’ll hardly ever go into a situation blind. The game will usually introduce new concepts and combinations so that you’re able to go in confidently and know what you need to do to succeed. Some concepts may not even be required to fully grasp but they’ll certainly make the combat more fun and easier if you master the abilities and rhythm of Mr. Shifty himself.
The graphics help reflect the speed and momentum of the gameplay very nicely. As you zip around and teleport from spot to spot there will be smoke clouds that are reminiscent of Nightcrawler and it’s a very satisfying sight. It makes you feel more powerful. The graphical style is nice and helps compliment the atmosphere as well. It looks as much like a comic book style game as much as it plays like one and it’s good the developer found such a well-made marriage between the graphics and the gameplay. The music is pure bliss. I found myself turning it up very loud on Nintendo Switch and playing with headphones when I was playing on PC. It’s energetic rock and electronic music that gives you further motivation to dispose of enemies quickly.
There is some pretty heavy slowdown in the Nintendo Switch version and I’m hoping it’s patched at some point. The Nintendo Switch is much more powerful than some of these lackluster ports would make it appear. This game isn’t that demanding and so it needs to be more optimized. When it gets really heavy on the action the game will experience heavy slowdown. The frame rate gets chugging really slow on occasion but it will downright freeze for a split second or two repeatedly in very combat heavy areas. It’s even worse when there’s a lot of enemies on screen. There were even a few times where I’m at least half sure the reason I died was due to the game freezing and slowing down.
For a game with such a big emphasis on speed, it’s rather frustrating, especially considering this issue is at its worst during the most frenzied and fun portions of the game. I didn’t notice these issues on the PC version so you’ll just need to ask yourself what’s more important to you: portability or stability. I personally still prefer it on Nintendo Switch but that’s just because this game is perfect for short sessions given the quick nature of the gameplay. However, the Nintendo Switch version is far from being the best version. This game was clearly designed with PC in mind and then later hastily ported to the Switch.
All in all Mr. Shifty is a very fun experience. I completed it in about five hours. Had I been more patient and paid better attention in some of the more difficult sections then I likely would have completed it in four hours or a little less. This game can get incredibly difficult but it’s part of the fun. Quick reflexes or a lot of patience will be required, or something in between, in order for this to be a fun experience for you. The price is right as well with it only being $14.99 USD on both Steam and the Nintendo eShop. I do wish there was some sort of wave mode with randomized areas and no story with leaderboards because it would really help the replay value but I know I’ll end up playing more of it regardless on occasion on my Nintendo Switch.
Your character may be a thief but you’ll never be more happy to help him with his morally ambiguous objectives. His attitude and abilities make him all the more appealing to side with. It may slow down on the Switch quite often but it’s still a very enjoyable experience. The difficulty may get really high at times but it’s all part of the fun. If shorter experiences are an issue for you then you may want to wait until it’s on sale but I personally feel that four or five hours of entertainment is perfectly fine for a fifteen dollar experience. I do hope that the developer adds a randomized wave mode in a future update, or at least makes user created content easy on the Steam version.
A Steam Review copy of Mr. Shifty was provided by tinybuild for the purpose of this review. The Nintendo Switch portion of this review was done entirely at the writer’s discretion for comparison’s sake.
- Fast paced action and liquid smooth combat
- Exhilarating soundtrack will help add to the atmosphere and momentum
- Fun dialogue and graphics help bring this comic book inspired world to life
- Difficulty gradually increase and presents interesting challenges to the player
- Widespread slowdown in the Nintendo Switch version
- Randomized levels with waves of enemies would really add to fun factor and replay value
- Length is only around four or five hours but still fun almost the entire time