I want to start out by saying that I really enjoy top-down games. I’ve been playing them since I was a kid, with the likes of Mantra and Harry the Handsome Executive. However, I don’t expect gamers to remember 20-30-year-old games at this point, so I’ll reference something more recent, such as Hotline Miami 1 & 2. I thoroughly enjoyed both titles and kept an eye out for more top-down games of interest.
Enter Mr.Shifty. You play a super-powered thief making your way through a skyscraper to steal various items. It seems like someone watched the intro for Xmen 2 and decided to make a game based on the premise of Nightstalkers ability. Plowing through a room full of gun-wielding tough guys who can down you in one hit provides a very satisfying adrenaline burst. Zipping through walls and other obstacles is also fun, and I chuckled watching my enemies scramble to reorientate themselves to my always moving position.
However, Mr.Shifty’s strength is also where I found its weakness - Embracing the pure simplicity of a basic teleport and attack button, I got the hang of the game after a few minutes and bored not long after. After completing 4 levels, I checked and discovered there was a total of 18. Knowing I wouldn’t be able to play several more hours with nothing more than a change of scenery and some new enemies, I decided to return the game.
Mr.Shifty is a great idea - the graphics are nice, the controls are responsive, and it’s genuinely fun to punch the daylights out of the guards, etc. you meet. There are things to pick up in the environment to throw at enemies or smash them through windows and so on, but I found this difficult to use. If you’re out in the open and not moving for more than a moment, you’ll get shot and die. If the gameplay allowed more environmental interactivity, I would have found myself a lot more hooked.
See also the lack of a rad weapon, like a katana. While Mr.Shifty seems just to knock out most of his foes, he also will boot some out of skyscraper windows, so he’s clearly not above killing. Perhaps it’s because I’ve recently come off much more violent fare such as Dead Cells and Katana Zero, but without more compelling combat, I was quickly zoned out.
The final nail in Mr.Shifty’s proverbial coffin was that it didn’t take me long to discover the AI is as dumb as bricks. You can easily funnel large groups in and out of doorways as you poof back and forth, punching their bodies like a game of ping-pong where you play both sides. While you can avoid such “cheese” strategies, I’d also prefer a game doesn’t make me go out of the way to provide real difficulty. Perhaps new enemies, later on, would be more interesting, but the game didn’t show enough to compel me to find out.
The premise is fantastic but feels too diluted. I’m not expecting some kind of RPG or heaps of upgrades. The game just lacks a hook to make me keep playing, despite being fun for a few minutes at a time. Maybe that would be the way through the also unimaginative story, but I value my time better.
And that’s the main issue - with numerous other indie games in my backlog, and new ones released every day, Mr.Shifty doesn’t provide enough of a compelling reason to recommend it. Unlike Hotline Miami’s wacky story, excellent soundtrack and creative gameplay, Mr.Shifty has an elementary one-two gameplay loop that never changes.
I’m in the overall minority since the game has a Very Positive rating on Steam. Maybe you’ll enjoy it, but Mr.Shifty’s teleporting antics were not for me in the end.