The heist at the heart of Mr. Shifty kicks off with an explosive bang, like a pulpy late-‘80s action movie. You play the role of a mysterious super-powered criminal whose nifty ability to teleport across short distances and punch unsuspecting foes in the face keeps Mr. Shifty’s momentum going despite a story that soon becomes forgettable (like a pulpy late-’80s action movie), but not through the awful slowdown issues in its final act.
The best moments of Mr. Shifty made me feel like a complete, no-nonsense comic book badass. By using a combination of your warping ability and some quick melee reflexes you can take out a group of gun-toting security guards and beat them to a satisfying pulp before they can get off the one shot that would kill you if it connects, or you can get crafty and carefully guide a seeking missile back toward the turret that fired it. You can still sense vague feelings of badassery when you bypass laser grids or warp past unaware guards. The art direction uses heavy shadows on Mr. Shifty’s blue trench coat and environments, giving the colorful backdrops an inky, comic book vibe that fits into the overall tone.
The best moments of Mr. Shifty made me feel like a no-nonsense comic book badass
And like a comic action hero, Shifty won’t touch the guns dropped by his prey, but he will pick a handful of melee weapons to beat his foes. I have to admit there’s a level of satisfaction that comes from using a broom to smack down a whole group of enemies in one swing, but it doesn’t come close to the invincible feeling I got when I tossed an indestructible shield and watched it bounce off of a row of oncoming enemies. It was easily one of my favorite sequences; one turned me into a nearly unstoppable hybrid of the X-Men’s Nightcrawler and Captain America. Outside of occasionally wonky collision detection, like the time I saw a shield disappear through a wall, Shifty’s melee combat is savagely violent and fun to execute, but cartoony enough to get by.
All of Mr. Shifty’s power is balanced out by the fact that a single mistake at any moment can still get you killed, just like in its clear inspiration, Hotline Miami. Death tosses you back to the start of a level, which isn’t a huge inconvenience, but some of the tough late-game levels of the 18-stage campaign will leave you wishing for a checkpoint or two. But you can avoid death once in awhile: by chaining together enough beatdowns you can build up a special meter that will automatically initiate a slow-motion sequence to let you save yourself from an enemy’s bullet. It’s a nice effect that bails you out of starting over and gives you another neat way to pummel bad guys.
Mr. Shifty starts out with some good action, but its performance issues on Switch cause annoying hiccups
Mr. Shifty starts out with some good, smooth action, but its performance problems on Switch cause annoying hiccups that makes the last third horribly sluggish. The biggest issues crop up late in the campaign when the antagonist, a bland collection of supervillain cliches named Mr. Stone, uses a machine to warp in goons at random to fight you. The awful dropped frames and sluggishness that happen as foes warp in from all sides is a punishment that even a notorious thief like Mr. Shifty doesn’t deserve. Developer Team Shifty says an upcoming patch will address these issues, but it wasn’t available in time for this review. Even if that’s fixed, being forced to listen to Mr. Shifty’s mundane rock soundtrack for the five hours it took to finish it is another form of abuse entirely.
It’s also surprising that Mr. Shifty doesn’t offer many reasons to pick it once you’re done. The story is an uninteresting smash-and-grab burglary with groan-worthy characters and dialogue that aren’t interesting enough to go back to. It also doesn’t have leaderboards, so outside of replaying a stage to lower your level completion time or finish one with fewer deaths, there’s little reason to revisit this caper.
Shift through bullets, and master lightning-fast takedowns in an all new kind of action game from tinyBuild and Team Shifty! Mr. Shifty follows a teleportation-fueled heist to break into the world’s most secure facility.
On Nintendo Switch
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Mr. Shifty is an okay brawler that uses a stylish warping ability as a cool way to get the drop on unsuspecting foes. While it’s fun to smack down security goons with quick melee skills, the horrible framerate of the final act will test your patience. If you do endure and manage to drop the final boss, Mr. Shifty doesn’t present enough reasons to replay it.