The top down shooter is a genre that has seen a renaissance in recent years thanks to the likes of Hotline Miami. Mr. Shifty is the latest game that will draw up comparisons to the leader of the renaissance at first, but if you allow yourself to spend some time with it, you’ll realise it brings some lovely flourishes of its own. The main one being its namesake.

Mr. Shifty, the titular character, doesn’t just stand around looking dodgy. He also shifts through spaces. These shifts are never drastic jumps through space and time to another world, but they are enough to get you behind someone. To go from one room to another. At first you’ll no doubt be timid with your abilities. Taking your time to take out enemies before darting in to a room to avoid the wave of bullets.

As the game progresses you’ll find that this tactic works less and less. There will be more enemies scattered around the place with weapons that make hiding behind a wall not the most useful thing to do. You’ll be encouraged to zip between the enemies and take them out as quickly as possible. In being forced to do this you’ll also get to experience the game at its best.

When you take out a group of enemies quickly you fill a bar that will come in to play the next time a shot is fired directly at you. This will slow everything down, allowing you time to shift behind a group of enemies and take them out before they know what hit them. The answer to what hit them is you, and now their body is flying towards a window which they will crash out of in spectacular fashion.

Your main weapons are your fists, but there are other weapons dotted around the levels. Some are single use, whereas others can be used multiple times before they break. There’s also a few that can last the entirety of a level as long as you don’t throw them out of a window. Unfortunately you can’t take them to the next level, but that would make things a touch too easy and is definitely the right call.

You might’ve noticed, on a few occasions, that there has been the mention of crashing through a window. The reason there are so many windows to crash through is the setting of the game. You’re in the Skyscraper of Chairman Stone trying to obtain something hidden high up in it. Chairman Stone is a fairly stereotypical evil villain, but that’s the charm of the game. It doesn’t try to be something with a deep story, it just sets up a reason to punch people into walls and lets you run with it.

As the game gets in to its later stages, however, its biggest flaws begin to show. The game is never particularly difficult and this isn’t helped by enemy AI frequently ignoring obvious traps that have been set up. The best example is the lasers in the game which, if you’re on the other side of them, the enemies will just run in to, dying instantly. It’s a cheap way to advance though and it will only be yourself that you’re really cheating.

Advancing through levels usually requires you to just kill all the enemies that are in the room. There is occasionally the option to just get to the door to the next room and advance but this seems a rarity. It would be nice to have the freedom to choose whether to be stealthy or fight more often. The main issue with the current build of the game though is its frame rate, which really rears its head in the latter stages of the game when the combat gets more frantic. It’s frustrating as the battles are great fun, even with the frame rate issues.

If you’re a fan of top down shooters then Mr. Shifty is something you should consider checking out. Its breaking up of levels makes it work as a portable game but its addictive qualities mean you’ll still have fun playing it on the television in larger doses. The shifting ability helps make the game feel different enough to other titles in the genre, and although it’s far from the most challenging game, it’s a great ride whilst it lasts with strong combat mechanics. It’s not without its flaws, and hopefully some of them will be ironed out in the future, but even without a patch there’s still a charm to Mr. Shifty.


Brett Claxton

I like video games. That's why I write about them. I've played them for years and in that time I've found a love for creepy horrors, indie darlings and the oddities that come out of Japan. Although my main purpose on the site is to write up news and reviews I'm also one of the main Let's Play video creators of the team (or, as I call them, Brett's Play videos). You can check them out here: https://www.youtube.com/user/Bretteh2