Local multiplayer games that force you to work together with a friend are a great way to bond. Shift Happens offers some enjoyable 2D puzzle platforming gameplay but will it test your patience more than your skills?
You play Shift Happens by controlling Bismo and Plom who are orange and blue jelly creatures. Speaking of which, I just reviewed another game that was orange and blue... Anyway, you play as you would any other 2D platformer but there are many nifty mechanics that'll have you work together in order to progress. For starters, one character must always be small while the other must be large and you can push a button to shift between the two. Bismo and Plom can push and pull blocks as well as lift them (and each other) up. Doing so allows them to throw whatever's in their hands a great distance. Obviously, the big one has to do the throwing. Being able to move on involves such tasks as triggering pressure pads, moving levers, bouncing on trampolines while shifting in order to launch each other higher and higher, throwing things into walls to turn them into bridges, and catching the other player as they jump to a ledge that they can't quite reach.
As you solve puzzles and run and jump around, you must avoid drowning, touching spikes, and getting crushed by blocks. However, whenever you perish, the other player can just revive you but if you both bite the dust then you may have to start the stage all over again. Overall, Shift Happens rewards your ability to patiently solve situations together and it can be a lot of fun.
Bismo and Plom may seem generic at first but after playing for a while, you'll realise that these jelly creatures actually have enjoyable personalities. When it comes to environments, the first world of the game seems like your average Portal clone on a visual level but things get more interesting afterwards. You'll have to traverse virtual environments that consist of a forest complete with birds and foxes, a desert canyon, and a cavernous grotto. The environments are rendered simply yet they have a lovely charm to them that makes them a joy to watch. The music is fantastic and it reminds me of early Spyro the Dragon games with its soothing yet playful melodies.
Each stage within the somewhat short campaign is bursting with replay value. There are 75 collectable coins in each that also turn the fun into a bit of a competition as you can see how many both you and your pal obtained. On top of that, you can find the odd cube that can be extremely tricky to acquire which unlock super-tough bonus stages. All of the stages can be challenged in a time attack mode, too. In the end, these extras can take a long time to master which extends Shift Happens' replay value quite a lot.
I played Shift Happens with my wife which was pretty fun. Afterwards, I tried out the single player and I must say that playing solo is incredibly tedious in comparison. The main annoyance is that you have to keep changing who you're controlling. I remember playing through Klaus last year which allowed you to control two characters at once by holding a button. That's such a perfect solution so it makes me wonder why the developers here didn't implement it. That issue aside, playing cooperatively can be downright frustrating. Whenever you're faced with a puzzle that requires multiple steps, it can take a while to think of a solution which is okay but executing that solution is where things get annoying. Slipping up once can result in having to do it again or both characters might die and you'll have to restart the entire stage. To make matters worse, the controls are very finicky which will make you accidentally mess up. For example, the same button is used to pick up, throw, and push and pull boxes, use switches, and catch items.
Shift Happens is an enjoyable cooperative 2D puzzle platformer but it's unfortunately hindered by a limited solo experience as well as many irritating gameplay flaws. All of that being said, it's easy to see that it has a lot of potential to be a worthwhile game.
- + Great cooperative fun that rewards patience and your ability to work together
- + Lovely music and environments
- + Each stage has a lot of replay value
- - Single player is tedious and far less enjoyable than playing with a friend
- - It's way too easy to mess up
- - Controls are finicky at best