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Mr Shifty Review – Hotline Miami meets X-Men’s Nightcrawler

Mr Shifty has teleported from the Switch & PC to the Xbox One & PS4 and it’s an enjoyable if challenging affair. The FingerGuns review: Remember that scene from the start of the 2003 X-Men 2 movie where Nightcrawler took […]

Mr Shifty has teleported from the Switch & PC to the Xbox One & PS4 and it’s an enjoyable if challenging affair. The FingerGuns review:

Remember that scene from the start of the 2003 X-Men 2 movie where Nightcrawler took down the secret service by teleporting around the White House, punching and kicking everyone in sight? Now, imagine that, but in a top-down game akin to Hotline Miami. Got that in your mind? That’s Mr Shifty.

In Mr Shifty you play as the titular Mr Shifty, a silent, cap wearing thief who’s on a mission to steal a mega plutonium core from a high security skyscraper owned by villain Chairman Stone. This is a mission that’d be impossible for any normal person – the building is filled with traps, an army of armoured goons and some secrets – but Mr Shifty isn’t normal. He has the ability to transport short distances in a blink of an eye. I’m guessing this is where he get’s his name from.

The game is a top down 2.5D brawler where the aim is beat the ever living snot out of everything that Chairman Stone throws at you and then to proceed ever upwards in a series of lifts through the skyscraper. Each floor of the game presents a new set of challenges which, in some way, incorporates everything that has come before it. At the ground floor, you’re beating down on slow pistol-wielding goons and by the time you get to accounting on the 16th floor, you’re fighting off ninja’s, mines, rocket launchers, flame throwers, grenade launchers and rapid fire shotguns. It’s a game that requires constant learning and adaption from beginning to end with a steady difficulty curve that spikes towards the end. Mr Shifty is a game that has plenty of ideas and uses them well, right until the credits roll.

Mr Shifty doesn’t seem to be capable of using a gun – he doesn’t use one at all, even though there are tonnes of them left on the ground by the goons he defeats. Instead, Mr Shifty opts for the fine art of punching, kicking and using melee weaponry to dismiss his enemies. Coffee cups. Keyboards. Planks of wood. Oars. Shields. Prison bed pillows. As Mr Shifty smashes his way through the environment, he can pick up highlighted objects to throw or wield. He can even kick a door off its hinges into someone’s face, if he so chooses.

The main tool in Mr Shifty’s ass kicking repertoire is his ability to shift. In front of Shifty is a circular reticle and a quick tap of a button and he’s instantly teleported there. As long as the reticule can reach, he can teleport through walls, doors and other structures to confuse and dance around his foes. Teleporting into the middle of group of machine-gun toting minions who all take aim at you and subsequently shoot each other as you teleport out of there never gets old. The teleportation is limited but recharges over time and is also the main ingredient in the few puzzles that Mr Shifty must overcome.

The other super-natural ability that Mr Shifty can use in a tight spot is a Matrix-esque time slow down to avoid incoming bullet fire. This is controlled by a bar which fills up as you defeat foes quickly and consecutively. Once it’s full, the ability triggers automatically when Mr Shifty is about to get shot. The screen slows down so he can dance past the incoming hot lead and then beat down on some thugs.

Once all these elements are combined, you’re left with a fast paced, intense game that’ll have you occupying the edge of your seat. It’s a whole lot of fun to teleport into a room to get a grunt to shoot an explosive barrel, taking out everyone in its vicinity then teleporting back out to punch the door off its hinges into the last remaining person – but it’s also tough. Towards the end of the game, there are moments that might as well be a bullet hell game with lasers cutting the screen into moving quarters and enemies appearing around you at random. I’ve still got some tension in my neck from the final level of the game.

There are some sections of Mr Shifty that feel cheap, like they were designed to catch you out and kill you. This introduces a level of trial and error which, in itself, isn’t a bad thing but can become frustrating towards the end of the game when the difficulty really shifts up a gear. What’s more tiresome is that there are no checkpoints on any of the levels. You have to complete each of the games floors before it saves which means if you’ve spent 45 minutes getting to the last room of a tough level and the power goes off (this happened to me), you’re starting from the first room again.

The other irritating aspect is the occasional visual slowdown and technical issues. Mr Shifty is a fast paced game and you get used to operating at a rapid pace – but when the game introduces flame throwers, the game slows to a plod. Shifty slows down, the enemies slow down and everything goes into slow motion until you bash the flamethrower in. The game then returns to the usual speedy play. There’s also some occasional physics oddities like Shifty getting hit through a wall by a Ninja’s swipe and people getting stuck in doors. The game also crashed on my once on the final floor of the game. Thankfully, I didn’t lose too much progress.

My last complaint is around the enemy AI. Now, the AI is pretty good for the most part. The dumb grunts you’re taking on will follow the last place they saw you, even if you’ve shifted away and behind them. This gives you the opportunity to feel lethal and intelligent by punishing them from the rear. The AI does have some curious quirks though – One example is that almost every enemy on screen will stop moving if you punch a wall. Repeatedly punch a wall and the goons that would normally be chasing you down do a weird dance. Really quite odd.

These issues aside, Mr Shifty is an intense and gratifying experience that has its tongue pressed firmly into its cheek. It’s not quite on the same level as some of its contemporaries but it makes the most of what makes it unique and introduces new ideas from the ground floor to the penthouse. The occasional section of trial-and-error and the mountain-esque difficulty spike towards might be enough to make some players rage quit, but if you can push through the frustrations, there’s a funny, exhilarating game to be found underneath.

Mr Shifty is available now on PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4 (review version) and Xbox One.

Disclaimer: We received a copy of the game from the publishers in order to complete this review. Please see our review policy for more information.

Sean Davies

Ungrateful little yuppie larvae. 30-something father to 5. Once ate 32 slices of pizza at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

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