As one could rightfully expect from the name of this charming, top-down adventure, Mr. Shifty revolves around a protagonist who can ‘shift’ — similar to teleporting and dodging — adding a supernatural element to this otherwise straightforward and appreciatively minimalistic experience. Mr. Shifty is the spiritual love child of The Matrix and Hotline Miami coming from Team Shifty, a fresh indie developer founded by former developers from Halfbrick Studios (Fruit Ninja) and published by tinyBuild Games (Hello Neighbor, Party Hard, The Final Station) and they’ve made a pretty solid debut. The premise of Mr. Shifty is simple—assume the role of a technically unnamed protagonist who must infiltrate a heavily guarded skyscraper and steal a plutonium core from a classic, James Bond-esque villain, Chairman Stone, and use your super-shift abilities to complete your mission.
For all intents and purposes, Mr. Shifty is highly reminiscent of Hotline Miami due to their shared fast-paced approach and highly calculated top-down gameplay, as well as the uncanny necessity of mashing that retry button. It is worth mentioning, though, that Mr. Shifty is nowhere near as challenging as Hotline Miami and that makes it a rather simple pick-up-and-play title with minimal frustrations, even over time. With its simple approach and elementary control scheme, it could easily be a mobile game that one could play to pass time, in the waiting room or on the toilet. Navigating Stone’s skyscraper will put Shifty up against a wealth of unfortunate henchmen in different tiers of tenacity, from fisticuffs and handguns to snipers and grenade-launcher-toting savages. Exploration within the skyscraper will yield alternate methods of approach to get a better advantage on your adversaries, but that’s about it — Mr. Shifty is void of traditional finds such as collectibles, power-ups, and boosters of any kind.
Combat in Mr. Shifty is about as plain-Jane as the overall experience itself—there are no firearms to be used, though players may opt for destructible melee weapons such as wooden sticks and metal staves, to more unique weaponry that I will not ruin for you. It switches up the otherwise mainstream hand-to-hand combat and gives a little variety here and there to prevent the warfare from growing stale. In Mr. Shifty, your shift ability is your primary weapon and it allows you to eliminate hostiles in much more interesting and creative ways than simply knocking Chairman Stone’s goons this way and that. For example, shifting through walls will allow you to enter a room with a turret and duck back out just as it activates and mows down a group of guards standing in its line of fire. These environmental hazards can prove wildly entertaining, and at times, much more so than the traditional methods of combat that Mr. Shifty offers.
Overall, Mr. Shifty is a fairly simple experience that does offer a wealth of fun, but can be easily completed in just about four or five hours and lacks any kind of replay value aside from the general entertainment it does offer. It isn’t complex and it isn’t inherently challenging, but it is an absolute blast to play and that’s all I could really ask for. It’s a mighty cool development based on a rather nifty idea and it made a substantial impact as an entry-level IP from a growing indie developer. Mr. Shifty easily has the makings for a well-rounded sequel that would add more abilities for our protagonist to mess around with and even offer a different variety of gameplay such as adding usable firearms and lethal weapons.
Mr. Shifty is available now on Windows PC and Nintendo Switch.