Let me sum this up for you. You’re a master thief who’s been tasked with stealing a plutonium core for a corrupt corporation led by a man named Chairman Stone. You have the power to shift (i.e. teleport) short distances. You have to sneak and many times fight your way through dozens of hired goons to accomplish this task while also avoiding clever traps that Stone has set for you. Sounds pretty cool, right? That’s the premise behind Mr. Shifty, a top down brawler in the vein of games like Hotline Miami.
Mr. Shifty is a puzzle brawler where you’re going through floor upon floor of an office building taking out waves of enemies and solving environmental puzzles along the way. These can take the forms of different enemy types such as goons with pistols, shotguns or machine guns combined with larger, hulking brutes armed with their fists or even rocket launchers. The environmental puzzles can be lasers that take you out, missile armed turrets or proximity mines (that can be picked up and thrown at enemies). One hit from anything can take you out. You’re armed simply with your fists or the occasional melee weapon that is dropped by an enemy. It’s up to you to phase around through walls or across lasers to take out everyone in your way, defeat Chairman Stone and retrieve the plutonium core.
Early on in the game you have the ability to sneak and stealth your way past many of the guards. You can walk slowly up behind a pillar or a crate for cover, wait for them to come around the corner and take them out. You may see a guard or two hiding in a closet waiting to ambush you. Simply shift into the room and take them out before they even know you’re there. Maybe there are half a dozen or more guards all with their guns aimed at a door waiting for you to come in. Shift into the middle of them and then back out again and watch them take each other out in the confusion. When the mechanics of the game work it’s incredibly fun to play. I would have preferred more of the stealth style action to the straight up brawl your way through rooms. As it is there’s a decent mix of both until you get later in the game.
At that point they’re just throwing as many people at you to ramp up the difficulty and that’s where the game starts to fall apart. As more and more people are on screen and more and more things are happening the game just can’t keep up. There are some major issues with frame rate. This game relies on a steady frame rate and because there are so many times when it dips to unplayable levels it’s hard to find consistent fun with the game.
The game’s checkpoint system is also both very good and a cause for some major frustration at different points. Each time you walk through a door you get a chance to take a breath from the mayhem that was happening. Since you’re going into rooms pretty frequently you’ll not lose much progress along the way. However, when some of the rooms are occupied by literally 50, 60, 70 guys or more there can be times when you have to fight through long stretches without a break. Since you die in one hit that progress can very easily be nullified by a bad shift, a dip in the framerate or simply some bad luck. If you’re 67 guys into a 70 bad guy room and die it can be frustrating to have to do all of that over again.
I had some fun throughout my four to five hours with Mr. Shifty. The story was goofy enough to keep me interested in the conflict between Shifty and Nyx, and Chairman Stone. The sections of the game where everything goes right feel incredibly fun to play. I really like a good brawler from time to time. I just found the frustrating sections of the game far outweighed any of the good I was having. 20 minutes of fun followed by 20-30 minutes of sheer frustration started to wear on me as I got to the end of the game to the point where in the last level I was ready to shut the game off and just not finish. I wanted to really like the game. I did. I just found the reliance on huge waves of enemies and the performance issues that came along with it were too much to ignore. Should the developers take another shot at this I’d love to see a more stealthy experience that relies on Shifty’s powers more than his fists.
Review copy of the game provided by the publisher
Played through the full game
Total Play Time: 5 hours