These days, the ethereal wooden surface of my existential desk is filled with previews and betas for cool sounding titles. Having had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Shifty in action at PAX South 2017, I was stoked to also give the beta a run once it crossed my aforementioned desktop.
Mr. Shifty is best described as Hotline Miami IF you are also playing as Nightcrawler of X-Men fame. Your goal is to find and steal a super powerful Mega Plutonium bomb from a rogue CEO. To do so, you must ascend the business tower defeating all that stand in your way.
The beta goes as far as the completion of the first act (there seem to be three in total in the full game), and I won’t ruin the experience by revealing plot points beyond the basic overview I gave, but I will say that the writing is very tongue-in-cheek, dry, and witty humor. As both a thief/spy and a super hero (of sorts), you can expect a lot of jokes that cater to that aspect along with poking fun at the common, James Bond type plot tropes. I enjoyed this aspect of the game quite a bit.
Gameplay in Mr. Shifty is well described using a single word: AWESOME! Seriously, Team Shifty took everything they love about both Hotline Miami AND X-Men and blended it seamlessly into an incredibly fun and fast paced game filled with a variety of enemies, destructible environments, cool traps and puzzles, and “on point” and exhilarating combat.
Combat itself is resolved using your fists or various weapons found along the way, all of which can be thrown. The coolest weapon in the beta was the trident by a large margin. You can only throw it, but is one of only two weapons in the game that wasn’t destroyed with repeated use, and the aspect of impaling enemies on the wall never really grew old.
Your enemies do in fact have a wider assortment of weapons including firearms, but you won’t be using those. Instead, you use your Nightcrawler-esque blink ability (short range teleportation) to change the battlefield dynamic and impact both your strategy and your ability to get out of sticky situations. This is however tied to a usage meter (or stamina if you will) and you only get so many jumps over a short period of time before it will need to refill.
Finally, there is a slow time mechanic that occasionally happens during combat. I wasn’t actually 100% what the trigger for that was per se (it could be tied to an actual button, but it seemed more like it would happen under certain circumstances during combat when you were about to be overwhelmed), but it was definitely a nice addition. Typically, it lasted something like 5-10 seconds each time (I didn’t actually time it as it happened during some of the most frenetic in game moments, and it might be a static length).
This is a game that you can play in one long run, in lots of short snippets, or pretty much anywhere in between. The gameplay is incredibly polished and tight, the controls are perfectly responsive, and there were zero technical issues during my run through the beta as well. One of the best handling games I have played.
The graphics in Mr. Shifty can easily be described as fun. This is a top down experience much like my now oft referenced Hotline Miami. However, the graphics themselves are more comic book-y in design, with actual comic book frame cutscenes. This is a really cool looking game that never fails to please the eyes and offers some pretty funny and interesting surprises as well. The sheer volume of destructibility in the game’s environment made for an ever changing appearance as well. All in all, I was also highly pleased with this category.
The audio in Mr. Shifty is parts old spy thriller and comic tunes (such as you might hear if you combined Spy Hunter’s soundtrack with the OG Adam West Batman series music) where it wasn’t just straight up rock and metal. There are a lot of elevators in the game (this is how you get from level to level), and hilariously, when you are in them, elevator music is playing. The music in the levels however always makes you feel amped up. The other audio, from combat sounds to ambient noises all sounded great as well.
Mr. Shifty is one of those rare games that hits on all points. At no point did I ever experience anything even remotely resembling boredom, and I could easily play this game non-stop to completion (and plan to do so once the full game is unlocked and released). Mr. Shifty is simply a great game that will rate out in the mid to high 90’s for almost everybody. A supremely fun and polished experience, even as a beta. Mr. Shifty is a definite must, own must play game.
I’ll leave you with this video teaser to check out as well.