When you see a game that looks like Hotline Miami but with a neat new gimmick, it definitely seems promising. So, does Mr. Shifty have what it takes to be the next twitch-inducing overhead action game?
Upon beginning your adventure as Mr. Shifty who's on a mission to steal some hazardous materials from a devious corporation, the first thing you'll notice is how tight and simple the controls are. You use the left stick to move around and the right to pan the camera around stages to scan for enemies. One very nifty aspect of movement is that you can use the directional buttons to run in straight lines which comes in handy more often than you'd think. Anyway, by tapping the attack button, Mr. Shifty unleashes a fury of punches that can devastate enemy guards. However, the coolest aspect of gameplay is the ability to shift through walls. Doing so allows you to escape gunfire and stealthily move across stages. Overall, the super-intuitive controls are perfectly implemented while the gimmick of being able to shift around stages provides a superhero-like element that's very satisfying.
The graphics in Mr. Shifty are incredibly clean-looking with simplistic 3D character models and environments that make playing it even more intuitive. The animations are fluid, too, although the game sometimes pauses for a split second when the action gets too intense which could be long enough to disorient you in the middle of fighting a horde of enemies. Another issue is the fact that the stage environments are very bland and unvaried. As a series of storage rooms and offices, it all blends together to make one boring game world. On the other hand, the audio is spot-on with rock music that belongs in a heist movie and sound effects that help amplify the action.
Although Mr. Shifty's ability to pass through walls is cool, it also makes the gameplay easily exploitable. You can have a dozen enemies chasing you while firing a cloud of bullets in your direction and you can easily just keep shifting out of harm's way. There is a limit of how many times you can shift in a row but it doesn't take long to recover. Even with one hit ending your life, you definitely won't perish often if you have just a little bit of skill. The only hazards that you'll die at are unexpected lasers seemingly coming out of nowhere or a turret that you happened to overlook. It's an easy game that doesn't provide even half of the satisfying challenge of Hotline Miami.
That brings me to my next point; the enemy artificial intelligence here is unbelievably dumb. Enemies run around haphazardly when they chase you and split up all the time thus making it easy for you to pick them off one by one. Not only that, it takes a lot for guards to be alerted. One guard can shoot at you from one room while guards in an adjacent room are unaware of anything going on. Are they wearing noise-cancelling headphones or something? Beating these guys up is easier than jumping on a bunch of Goombas.
Finally, the stage design in Mr. Shifty leaves a lot to be desired. Almost every stage (which is a different floor in the office building) entirely consists of the same scenarios of having to beat up every single enemy in order to advance. Sometimes, you may have to find a secret entrance to a hidden storage area or avoid a barrage of lasers moving around a room but the fact that you're basically beating up loads of pathetic guards over and over again never really changes. It gets monotonous very fast.
Mr. Shifty has a promising gimmick but the fact that you can easily exploit it makes it far too easy and tedious. Hopefully the developers retool this and work on a sequel because they definitely have a winning formula here; it's just not well executed.
- + Very intuitive and tight controls
- + Shifting through walls is super-cool
- + Clean overhead 3D visuals and great audio
- - Taking advantage of the shift mechanic makes combat far too easy to be enjoyable
- - Extremely dumb artificial intelligence
- - Repetitive level designs get boring fast