Mr. Shifty is a game with a lot of potential that, at launch at least, is rendered nearly unplayable by performance issues on the Nintendo Switch. In a game that is fully reliant on having quick reflexes, and where one errant move can erase minutes of progress, these issues are unacceptable.
During my playthrough, I died tens of times due to lag. The game slows to a stop when a weapon breaks; or when things explode; or when too many enemies are on screen. Mr. Shifty also crashed on me twice near the end of particularly difficult levels, causing much frustration as I had to trek through the levels again.
I didn’t play a single level that didn’t have some level of frame dropping, out of the 18 levels. On the craziest levels, I died nearly 50 times — not entirely due to lag, but at least partly.
And, yet: I pushed through. Mr. Shifty has a great gameplay loop, with a sort of remix on the excellent gameplay found in Hotline Miami.
In Mr. Shifty, the titular character is infiltrating a skyscraper with the goal of stealing Mega Plutonium from the building so that the evil mastermind on the top floor can’t use it for some nefarious plot to take over the world. Or something.
Mr. Shifty has a special power to warp around the level. With a simple button press, you can zip around through walls, doors or behind enemies. Shifty has a limited number of shifts that he can make at a time, with a lengthy reset if you use too many at once.
While enemies have guns ranging from pistols to machine guns, shotguns and dual-wielding pistols, Shifty can only use his fists and other melee-centric items he might find, in addition to a few weapons he can through. Other enemies include big brawlers and guys with bombs. Each level presents a different puzzle to get to the end. While setting a plan is important, improvisation is even more important, as your initial plan is likely to go awry.
This improvisation is the key as to what I liked about Mr. Shifty, and why I couldn’t put the game down until I beat it, despite the performance issues. Punching enemies is relentlessly satisfying, and the bullet-time effect that comes into play after many successful attacks makes you feel like you’re Neo in The Matrix.
The story presented in Mr. Shifty is scant and forgettable. You’re a special agent of some sort trying to stop Generic Bad Guy from using Generic Bomb Matter Thing to take over the world. After beating the game, there is little incentive to revisit the levels, unless you want to beat them faster or in fewer deaths. However, as there is no online leaderboard or achievement system, the game doesn’t provide external motivation to replay it.
Finally, the last showdown with the boss is unsatisfying and anticlimactic. The final level leading up to it is immensely difficult, and I couldn’t help but feel let down by the final “fight.”
As I said up top, Mr. Shifty is a really good game with solid mechanics and a lot of challenge. It’s got a lot of style, and the 3-to-5-hour playtime is plenty for the price point, even without much incentive to revisit it.
The biggest problem for the game is the current technical issues on the Switch. It’s bad enough that I think the game should not have been released until the issues were ironed out. The developer has stated that it is working on fixing the issues, but as of this review, the game is just in too rough a shape to recommend.
Mr. Shifty was purchased and reviewed by the author on a Nintendo Switch console. You can read additional information about PSVG’s review policy on our disclaimer page here.