- Total Score - 8.5/108.5/10
it’s all the arcade beat-em-up fun the 90’s version of you could have asked for, without the need for hand sanitizer after.
It was past midnight, I had work in the morning, and I didn’t want to stop playing Mr. Shifty.
There’s plenty to say about Mr. Shifty by TinyBuild, and most of it is good. But really, the highest praise I can give it, or any other game for that matter, is that when it was time to stop playing and get back to real adult responsibilities, I really didn’t want to. Mr. Shifty is a top-down arcade-style beat-em-up game, and your main power is quick teleportation. I was having so much fun jumping all around the 18 levels that I was willing to sacrifice precious sleep and my own ability to wake up and get to work on time in the morning. Mr. Shifty is a blast to play, an old-school early 90’s arcade style throwback that will have you almost able to hear the sounds of skee ball, hot shot basketball, tickets printing, sirens sounding, and thousands of other little sounds from long rows of other stand-up arcade cabinets, all without having to dig in your pocket desperate for just one more quarter to hit the continue button one more time.
There is a plot to Mr. Shifty, but no one hits the arcade looking for the next great American novel. It’s as interchangeable as “The President has been kidnapped by ninjas,” and it is handled very tongue-in-cheek. You’re attacking a building, there’s a main bad guy, thousands of minions that get tougher and tougher every level, and only you to take them on. The bad guy, whose identity is so unimportant I can neither remember his name nor feel it’s necessary enough to look up for this review, has somehow obtained some “mega plutonium,” and needs to be stopped. Mr. Shifty, a thief, along with Nyx, Shifty’s eye in the sky, task themselves with stopping him, which is where Mr. Shifty explosively enters the building.
Mr. Shifty’s primary ability is a regenerating quick-skip teleportation that instantaneously move him 10 feet away with absolutely no cool-down period, crossing large rooms in no time at all. There is a regenerating 5-jump limit, however, but the speed at which it regenerates is so quick that you rarely find yourself running out of teleports. Running out, though, does result in a rather lengthy and unforgiving cool down, which given the game’s one-shot-and-you’re-dead gameplay, is almost always a death sentence, since if you find yourself needing to teleport around that much, chances are you’re not going to be in a good state when you need several seconds to teleport again.
While nearly every enemy in the game has a gun of some kind, starting with pistols for early enemies, all the way up to the very difficult to avoid fully automatic shotguns later on, Mr. Shifty never picks up one of these weapons. There’s one attack button, which takes out nearly every enemy type with two or three attacks. Finishing off an enemy results in a rather satisfying flourish, sending them flying through furniture and out of large windows. Friendly fire is also a critical component as Mr. Shift teleports around a room, with enemies shooting each other in the confusion. It’s a satisfying experience to jump into and around an enemy filled room and see them take each other down without throwing a single punch. Most objects in the environment are fully destructible and will disintegrate when teleported onto, so an encounter with a huge number of enemies with varied weapons often results in one large room littered with debris, instead of the many rooms, hallways, desks, display cases, statues, file cabinets, and furniture that used to occupy those rooms when Mr. Shifty arrived. Destroying some objects leave behind melee weapons that can be used, from large sticks that can be used to swat multiple enemies all at once, to, bizarrely enough, couch cushions that can be thrown to one-hit defeat any enemy. All weapons that Mr. Shifty picks up will break after a set amount of uses, never letting one melee weapon feel too overpowered.
The one major and completely awesome exception to that rule is the Trident. In only a small handful of levels there are statues holding large golden tridents that become a melee weapon when the statue is destroyed. When used, the trident is thrown, travels the length of a room, and turns any enemy in its way into a shish kabob pinned to the wall. There’s even an achievement in the Steam version for skewering 5 or more enemies in a single throw. Since you have to travel to the other end of the room to retrieve your weapon after throwing it (and since stopping to retrieve a weapon with dozens of guns on you is no easy task) simply having the weapon is not enough to make a level easy, but never in the game did I feel more powerful than when I wielded Poseidon’s tri-pronged blade.
A few parts of the game fall a bit flat. Some sections of the game throw in a power dampening field, not allowing you to use your teleport ability. Given that the whole nature of the game hinges on that ability, those sections feel needlessly tedious, sometimes requiring you to take what feels like an eternity in such a fast-moving game to punch through a wall or wait for an enemy patrol to pass so you can sneak by unnoticed. These sections are mercifully short, however, and never require a full stealth approach. While the sound design feels solid throughout, including the almost required *BAMF* sound of teleporting, there’s only one track of background music that plays during gameplay the whole game through, which I was thoroughly sick of by the end. There are 18 levels of Mr. Shifty, and when it’s finished (it took me about 5 hours) all that’s left to do is to try going through the levels again to beat your best time or death count. This is a game that could have extended its longevity by including other game types, like a survival mode, horde mode, or sandbox mode, and I would kill for a Mr. Shifty co-op experience, relying on strong side-by-side teamwork to succeed. Instead I’m left with a completed game I’m not convincingly compelled to continue revisiting.
However, those flaws were not distracting enough to take me out of the experience I had with Mr. Shifty. It evokes the feeling of “just one more level” addictiveness that make it so hard to put down, and the satisfaction of going into a multi-wave battle, fighting and dying and fighting and dying over and over again until you find just the right combination of luck, strategy, nerve, and quick reflexes putting you on top of a vast debris field of carnage and the arrow pointing the way out of the level is something quick saves and auto saves have almost robbed from the player experience these days. Mr. Shifty is available now for PC on Steam and Nintendo Switch, and at a price of 60 quarters ($14.99) it’s all the arcade beat-em-up fun the 90’s version of you could have asked for, without the need for hand sanitizer after.