Recently released on Xbox One, though also available on PlayStation 4, PC and Nintendo Switch, Mr Shifty is one of those games that’s hard to sell via screenshots.
With just a static image to go by, you’d assume it’s some sort of cel-shaded Hotline Miami clone, perhaps with less drugs, gore and extreme violence to make it more accessible and saleable to gamers of all ages. But without all those ingredients, which many are drawn to because they are considered taboo, just what would it have going for it? The answer is: teleportation.
The fact of the matter is though, aside from sporting a similar top-down perspective, Mr Shifty actually has little in common with Hotline Miami. Sure, it’s an arcade style action game but it’s more lenient, throws a number of environmental hazards your way rather than just hordes of armed enemies, and there’s an emphasis on fast-paced melee combat that’s assisted by the ability to instantly warp short distances.
You enter rooms – sometimes punching the door to send it flying and take out an enemy or two – before warping around like someone out of this world, eradicating enemies with finesse. Sometimes your bare fists are enough for the job, other times you may feel the need to arm yourself with an oar or a mug or a sword to make matters more succinct. It’s up to you, the only thing to be to be aware of is that if you use your teleportation powers repeatedly in a short space of time, you might find yourself in a sticky situation waiting for them to recharge again.
The use of your superpower needs to be somewhat metered then; you need to analyse each room you enter, calculating a route in your mind that enables you to take out all the enemies while avoiding any security systems that are in play. You need to spot areas that could be used for a brief moment of safety, allowing your power to regenerate if needs be while you reassess the situation. And you also need to think fast and act fast. It all makes for an engaging and exciting experience.
Mr Shifty is stage based, with your performance measured by the time it’s taken you to complete the stage and also how many times you’ve died. Death is something that comes more frequently the further you progress, but you always begin back at the start of the room you died in, so you never have to repeat too much gameplay. With just one button to attack and another to warp, gameplay is simple yet surprisingly deep; it’s all about how you use your abilities to move around and gain advantage over your adversaries. It’s also got a schlocky story that’s not entirely necessary to follow, but rather enjoyable if you do so.
So, if you’re in the market for a brawler with a difference, you really should give Mr Shifty a try. Its comic book styled visuals are appealing to the eyes and its soundtrack gets the blood flowing, but its gameplay is what will keep you going back for more. Warping around and punching its variety of goons from behind never gets old, and even when your powers are stripped from you via strange devices, the gameplay finds new ways of keeping you entertained. He may be a fellow that’s hard to pin down, but you’d be wise to not let Mr Shifty give you the slip if you value rewarding action-packed gameplay.