Mr. Shifty, available on most gaming platforms, is one of those fun, simple games that lives or dies on its gameplay and basically nothing else. The story, if you insist, is perfunctory. Mr. Shifty, a thief that works for some worldwide organization, breaks into an absurdly well defended and manned tower to steal some plutonium, because apparently the 80s really are coming back and earns the ire of Chairman Stone, a silly buffoon of a James Bond villain who earned my dislike much more for being obnoxious than a worthy villain. Your Moneypenny style teammate, Nyx, is nearly as annoying. Moving up and down the skyscraper, Mr. Shifty deals with more and more thugs, traps and floor layouts as the game progresses.
Ugh, enough of that, the story doesn’t even need to exist at all. The point of this game is the very fun combat. Mr. Shifty can do exactly what his name implies; he can teleport over short distances at will; Through walls, windows, doors, whatever, Mr. Shifty is a short ranged Nightcrawler who uses his fists and super power to bamboozle a never-ending horde of bad guys. The player gains absolutely no new powers, perks or anything throughout the game; this is an experience that is built entirely around one mechanic and it works really well for the majority of the game. Oh, he can also enter into a slow-motion mode for a short time if you fill his combo meter enough, but that feels more complementary to his primary power than as something that stands on its own. Zipping around maps, jumping in and out of action and realizing that you need to be constantly moving is a lot of fun and rewarding. Combat is quick and tense because while you have a huge advantage by blinking around the map quicker than your enemies can respond, you also die if you get hit just one time. This makes jumping out of action to move around and wait for the bad guys to reposition themselves key and adds a good sense of depth to the game that it otherwise would not have. It is by no means a tactically deep game, but a bit of discretion and patience will definitely help you get through the game quicker.
While there is some light puzzle aspects to the game, it is mostly pure combat. You get access to melee weapons such as brooms, swords and staffs on a very regular basis as well as projectile weapons such as debris, shields and eventually tridents (I know, weird choices). These weapons are key to taking out large amounts of enemies at once and offer a nice addition to just punching everybody. The tone of the fighting is also oddly violent and real for such a cartoony looking game. Mr. Shifty really is mowing through guys, seemingly killing them, and it comes off as oddly brutal when juxtaposed to the look and tone of the rest of the game. That’s not a bad thing really, but is worthy of note. The game introduces new kinds of bad guys on a regular basis; basic guys with pistols, big bruisers who throw haymakers and eventually flame throwing, rocket shooting bad guys will fall victim to your fists. Quick tip; friendly fire is a real concern for your enemies, so don’t be afraid to turn that against them. The combat overall is really fun; you get a great sense of power and danger all at once that makes for a very fun experience. I played though most of the game, which is not long, in a matter of days.
That being said, there is not much to really come back to it after beating the game. I guess you could just keep replaying it for your own pleasure, the game keeps a timer and how many times you die per level if you want to improve that, but I did not see any leaderboards or anything like that to really keep you coming back. Which is fine for me, I have never been into those kinds of things, but that seems like such an easy way to keep a lively community of players around the game. The game seems tailor made for speed running but I did not see much evidence of a strong community around it online. Also, the story and characters really are a total zero in terms of adding to the experience. The visuals look nice, but I don’t think they are anything mind blowing. Hotline Miami, a very similar game and clear inspiration for Mr. Shifty, has much more artistic merit to it than this game.
Mr. Shifty is a stripped-down video game experience that does not overstay its welcome; you really do feel like a street level super hero fighting his way through hordes of bad guys. Fun game play and a competently constructed video game build around that singular combat and teleporting loop makes for a diverting and fun experience that I would recommend to anybody who likes action games. Just don’t expect the game to stick around for very long.