The pitch for the Mr. Shifty beta puts it best: imagine if you were playing Hotline Miami but with powers of Nightcrawler from X-Men. What you see is basically what you get with Mr. Shifty. Taking a top-down perspective popularized again by the aforementioned Hotline Miami, the premise of Shifty is simple: clear the room of enemies and progress. The hook here is that literally everything can kill you with a single strike, and you start unarmed.
Except for that Nightcrawler bit. The titular Mr. Shifty has the ability to warp a small distance in whatever direction he is facing. A small circular cursor always leads in front to get an idea of where Shifty would appear when teleporting. Due to the sensitivity of the cursor’s movement, Mr. Shifty actually recommends using a gamepad. That probably will come as an irritant to some PC gamers, but I didn’t have much issue with the setup as it was. Due to the teleporting mechanic, combat is significantly more fast paced and I understand why a joystick would be preferred for controlling it. Surprisingly, I also experienced zero trouble actually using my Xbox One controller.
In terms of mechanics, that’s basically all that one gets with the beta. I played several levels of increasing difficulty. Mostly that difficulty comes from navigating multiple types of grunts across remixed environments. The enemy designs are pretty solid, each are very well color coded and are designed to help quickly identify what kind of weapon they carried. The environments don’t leave nearly as much impact. Each is a succession of room, with walled off smaller rooms and corridors. Occasionally a window is available to knock an enemy through, but that’s really all.
Scatter throughout the uninspired maps, however, are various melee objects Shifty can put to use to gain the upper hand. Most of these are pretty straightforward too, you can hit people with boards or throw small objects to stun. Then, there’s the trident. Really, there’s a whole section of beta where various statues can have the tridents they’re holding taken and flung in any direction. Even if the thing is a bit hard to aim, it’s surprisingly fun, as the trident will just keep going until a wall stops it, dragging enemies with it. I know it isn’t really what the team wants out of the gameplay, but I really would have enjoyed a full game of trident throwing.
Finally, while a beta is hardly a perfect indicator, Mr. Shifty does run pretty well. Throughout my playtime, I experienced little to no frame dropping, which is huge in a game requiring reflex input to dodge moves, The art style takes on a pulp comic book vibe, and I think that helps the whole experience more enjoyable with the color popping. It’s just a shame this design doesn’t extend to the other maps.
As a beta, Mr. Shifty still has a way to go to really stay at the forefront of my mind. Even so, there is a solid foundation mechanically to really go places and put a proper spin on the run-and-gun style of game. There is still plenty of time to do that too, Mr. Shifty is currently slated for release some time later this year.
Beta Provided By Publisher