Remember that Hayden Christensen movie Jumper? You know, the one about the guy who can teleport and beat people up? Imagine if he spent less time moping, and more time actually laying siege to hordes of armed baddies in between pulling off international heists. Now imagine controlling that man. Congratulations, you’ve just realized how awesome of a concept Mr Shifty is.
Mr Shifty tells the story of Mr. Shifty (Name punctuated, title isn’t), a teleporting thief who works with his Oracle-like computer whiz Nyx to execute impossible heists no ordinary thief could dream of pulling off. The demo follows one such heist, with Nyx and Mr. Shifty gunning to break into the massive Olympus Tower and steal a ball of mega plutonium. Unfortunately for our heroes, not only is Olympus Tower the most secure building on the planet, it’s owned by the dastardly Chairman Stone, a vile man who wants nothing more than to see Mr. Shifty dead.
Naturally, this causes some problems.
Mr Shifty is a top-down action game reminiscent of the likes of Hotline Miami, where gunmen come at you from every direction, and it only takes a single bullet from their guns to bring our heroic Mr. Shifty down. Of course, this is where Mr. Shifty’s teleportation abilities come in handy, as it’s quite hard for enemies to aim when you’re warping all around them. Admittedly, I was a bit worried that it would be hard to successfully target enemies while bouncing around like a pinball, but Mr Shifty is kind enough to let our hero throw punches wide enough to the point where being precise is hardly an issue. Just in case you need more range, Mr. Shifty’s also able to pick up and use tons of melee weapons in the environment, allowing him to bring down baddies a lot more efficiently than with his fisticuffs.
Instead of worrying about aim, Mr Shifty makes evading attacks your top priority. While the usual pistol-packing baddies may not be much of a threat, the beta wasted no time in introducing additional enemies like the extra-durable brawlers, trigger-happy riflemen, and invincible turrets. Naturally, this means that clever use of teleportation is key, as being too liberal with your warping will find you out of energy in no time. Instead, you must carefully choose when to teleport in and out of combat zones in a way that minimizes potential harm while still keeping up the pace.
While Hotline Miami may reward racking up kills with bonus points, Mr Shifty offers a more practical reward. If you fill up your combo meter to the max, you’re granted a brief period of bullet time next time you’re staring down the wrong end of a gun. Not only does this save our heroic thief from certain doom, it also gives you a brief period to reposition, and even take out a couple of enemies before time resumes if you’re quick enough. It’s a mechanic quite similar to the ‘Sense of Death’ from the excellent Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, allowing you to turn a sticky situation into an advantage with ease. On the cheap side? Perhaps. Rewarding as hell? Absolutely.
While the teleportation is great for combat, the same can’t be said for movement. Sure, it helps get around in short bursts, but Mr Shifty has a particularly nasty habit of requiring you to teleport around moving lasers. This would be fine if teleportation with the recommended control scheme was even mildly precise, or if the size of the reticle matched the size of Mr. Shifty’s hitbox. As is, most deaths I’ve suffered in Mr Shifty rest entirely on these whirling beams of death, which has proved to be a lot more frustrating than it is challenging.
Still, as far as complaints go, mine are relatively minor. While the navigational puzzles may be on the annoying side, Mr Shifty has the common decency to make sure that 80% of your time will be spent in glorious combat across its many office interiors. And considering that the beta only lets me play six of over a hundred and twenty levels, I have a good feeling that Mr Shifty can only get crazier from here.
I await the insanity with open arms.
Mr Shifty was previewed on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher.