When I used to go to school I was one of those kids that spent a lot of time on the library computers during my lunch break.
One of the few websites that wasn’t blocked was a site called Miniclip. It was your classic smorgasbord of browser based flash games where only one in 10 were actually worth playing. In hindsight, even those that were deemed worth playing by 12 year old me weren’t really anything spectacular; it was simply because I was playing them at school where said games were technically banned, giving them the irresistible aura of the verboten. The reason why I’ve started with this lengthy preamble is twofold: first off, I’m struggling to think of anything to say about Protoshift, and secondly, this game belongs on Miniclip circa 2005.
Protoshift is a very, very simple game. You move you mouse cursor through obstacles. Revolutionary. Seeing as there’s time to kill let’s go into really descriptive detail. Your cursor is a little black square, and the screen scrolls you towards a series of black bars with gaps in them. It is through these gaps you must navigate your square ad infinitum. You can’t touch the black bars, or you die. You also can’t touch the edge of your screen, or you will, yes you guessed it, die. Where the real challenge lies though is the fact that these black bars are constantly spinning. They even change the direction that they spin in, and you can toggle a warning that tells you when this is going to happen.
The spinning and the scrolling happens at progressively faster and faster speeds until you die. Apart from superhuman reflexes, there are three other things that can help you. These are power ups that can be collected sporadically throughout your run, granting you five seconds of invulnerability, shrinkage, or slow motion. The end goal of your run is to keep doing this for the longest time possible. As you survive longer in a run the “level” ramps up, allowing you to unlock two more “harder” (read “faster”) modes once you’ve reached level five or more in each mode.
On a basic level all these elements that have been described above work. It is certainly a game, with a high score tracker, and perhaps an air of simplistic addictiveness if you’re that way inclined. However, there are many problems with Protoshift. For one, the game is thoroughly nauseating. The obstacles spin in such a way as to make even a seasoned jet pilot dizzy, and the background is a constantly shifting gradient of rainbow colours that just does not stop. What’s worse is that there’s a constant flashing at a fairly high frequency (thank you for the epilepsy warning, developers), which is there to ostensibly provide some sort of high octane rave vibe to the game, but I can’t help thinking that it’s there purely to flesh out the options page with a “flash toggle on/off” button.
Furthermore, Protoshift has few resolution options, with the largest not filling a standard 1080p screen, and it can only be played in a windowed mode. There is also a frustrating bug where the warning for direction changes cannot be toggled off for more than one consecutive run, and the player must exit to the main menu to retoggle the warning. But worse than all this is the fact there is absolutely no variety in Protoshift. It is mindless distraction. It is the Flappy Bird of the indie games scene.
Which brings me back to Miniclip. Without a doubt, Protoshift should be a free flash game to play in your browser, not a paid for (although admittedly cheap) game on the Steam store. Although Protoshift is technically solid in its execution, its concept is repetitive and lacking any sort of charm. The best part of the game is probably the soundtrack which is, at best, tolerable. If you’re a 12 year old school child pumped up on Chupa Chups and Panda Pop, this will probably be a hit. For anyone else, there are better, less nauseating games out there, and some of them are even free.