When you start up Mr. Shifty, the opening screen features the main character with his back turned to you as an upbeat electronic drum mix starts to slowly drone in. The main menu is a good representation of what Mr. Shifty is: a simplistic game with a lot of attitude and style.
The guys over at Team Shifty have made a top down action brawler in the vein of Hotline Miami. This game tries to emulate what its inspiration did and add another layer to it, teleportation. In Mr. Shifty you can teleport a couple of feet in front of you, and also through walls. What it doesn’t do, like its predecessor, is give you a technically solid experience.
Mr. Shifty is well rounded in concept yet lopsided in execution, and there are a few minor technical flaws. I received two codes from the publisher, one for the Nintendo Switch and one for the PC. While I was playing the game on the Switch there were a lot of times where I would hit an enemy into a book shelf or a destructible environment and the game would just freeze for a few seconds before continuing. It felt like it was doing long form math and had to think about the conclusion of the physics before the bodies hit. I thought to myself, “this could be a hardware limitation of the Switch,” so I downloaded it on Steam and the problem persisted there as well.
That’s not even the biggest issue with Mr. Shifty. It has very weird AI and hit boxes. For a game that is supposed to be fast paced and difficult, it lacks in the AI department. I had multiple occasions where I would walk past an enemy’s line of sight and he wouldn’t shoot at me or move at all. There was also many instances that I would throw an item at an enemy and it would go right through him.
As my time with Mr. Shifty grew I couldn’t help but take these blemishes of the game as part of its charm. What Mr. Shifty does so well is it uses that quirkiness to woo you over and it makes the glitches look like it is actually apart of the game. I have no idea if this was the actual intent of the creators, but I completely loved it when things wouldn’t actually work. Team Shifty have years of developer experience under their belt. Their humor and knowledge shows in so much of the game even down to the odd glitch here and there.
If you compare it to other games in the genre, it comes across as lacking. But if you look at the piece as something on its own, it’s actually a very fun, enjoyable yet buggy experience, especially on the Nintendo Switch. The added layer of portability is always a welcome factor and the levels in Mr. Shifty are short enough you can beat one or two during your daily transit or bathroom break.
Mr. Shifty lacks a lot of the polish that we should expect in games today, especially since it had been in an open beta form for the team to test with consumers. But with that all said, I still think it is a fun experience. When the game works, it works wonderfully. The punches have weight to them and seeing the bodies of your enemies flying across the screen through walls is something I don’t think I can ever get over. Teleporting around through walls and behind enemies is flawlessly executed and never gets old. I would definitely recommend picking up Mr. Shifty, especially for the Nintendo Switch; maybe he’ll teleport directly into your heart as he did mine.
This game review is based on Nintendo Switch eShop and Steam copies sent to SideQuesting by the publisher.