Among the many interesting new indie games coming to the Switch, Mr. Shifty is definitely in the top tier category. Its arcade brawling style with an emphasis on teleporting around gives off an epic feeling of being a total bad ass. The game doesn’t put any emphasis on guns or shooting and instead asks the player to get up-close and personal.
While I usually like to kick-off my reviews by discussing the plot, Mr. Shifty sort of takes a back seat in this regard. You’re raiding a building to stop an evil corporate “asshole” from mass producing a weapon of mass destruction. Aside from some witty dialogue here and there, that’s pretty much it. The game doesn’t even open with an intro just straight to level 1. As mentioned earlier this is an arcade brawler and it plays so to the core.
Even its levels tend to follow a classic game design approach where you start at the bottom of the building and slowly work your way you to the big finale. The only issue I have so far is that a lot of the assets can feel re-used. I was a bit surprised to see a game like this go over 3 GB when so many things are re-used with simple textures. Granted though the game’s physics is pretty solid. Watching countless foes flinging from your punches and hitting objects never gets old.
While the game does re-use a lot of its art, the level design itself varies from floor to floor. Similar to games like Hotline Miami you would need to study the room before breaking in the door and begin the fight. Sometimes you would even have to use the environment to your favor. One room for example had a laser turret that was blocked with glass and was surrounded by gun henchmen. I teleported next to the laser turret, had the henchmen shoot me to break the glass but then teleported away and activate the turret to take out all the henchmen in the room.
Mr. Shifty can get pretty challenging. Given the fact you can ‘shift’ around the game has a 1 hit KO rule. Teleporting also has its limits. You can only do it 5 times so making them count is crucial. Beating down foes helps build up a focus meter which once filled will allow the player to take a hit which causes time to slow down. It’s a weird way to activate a special but it works. Thankfully the game’s controls are pretty easy. You simply tap ‘b’ to teleport and ‘a’ to punch. However I found it easier to teleport using the ‘r’ bumper and face button to punch.
In terms of performance Mr. Shifty can suffer a bit on the Switch. Even though it runs at 30 FPS, on docked the FPS can dip in certain areas where plenty of physics are happening. I however did not notice these problems in handheld mode. The PC version on the other hand offers a steady and smooth 60 FPS with 4K. For an action packed game like this, the performance certainly makes a difference. But at the same time there’s no denying that playing arcade games on the go feels more suited. I could for example finish a level while on a bus ride and the fact there isn’t a lot of story means I don’t need to waste much time watching cutscenes. In the end if I had to choose one I would probably go with the Switch version.
At first glance, many will feel the need to compare this to Hotline Miami given its gameplay style. But it shouldn’t be. Mr. Shifty does a lot to stand out and while it may be thin on the content side of things it will keep you coming back to beat those high scores.