Review: 'Mr. Shifty' (PC)

An in-game screenshot from 'Mr. Shifty'. An in-game screenshot from 'Mr. Shifty'. TINY BUILD

As of this writing, Mr. Shifty is $15 on Steam. And for the longest time, I couldn’t decide if it was worth it.

The premise isn’t anything special. You play a master thief, the titular Mr. Shifty, who can teleport in a flash and knock down bad guys with 2-3 punches. There isn’t much beyond that.

As far as length goes, you’re looking at about five hours of gameplay. There are no collectibles or sidequests, and the only incentive to play the campaign again is to try and get the achievement for beating the developer’s time (1 hour and 19 minutes, by the way).

However, the gameplay mechanics were executed on a level I haven’t seen from an indie developer in a long time. You could practically feel the weight behind every punch thrown by the main character. Plus, teleporting around the well-designed maps to confuse my enemies and strategize my plan of attack made me feel like a master thief.

This was the turning point for me in justifying the price tag. The gameplay is that good.

It’s worth noting that although the developers recommended playing with a controller, I got around just fine with a keyboard and mouse. Picking up items tended to give me a bit of trouble since the “E” key is so close to the movement keys, but otherwise, the setup was great.

There was also a surprising amount of variety in the environments which kept the gameplay fresh. New enemies were introduced on nearly every stage, and weapons like landmines, broomsticks, and coffee mugs allowed for plenty of fun ways to clear a room full of baddies.

Mr. Shifty dies immediately after getting hit, though checkpoints are usually close by so dying isn’t a big deal. The game also throws you a bone if you die too many times by filling up your slow motion gauge. Your slow motion ability automatically activates when a bullet gets too close, allowing you to dodge out of the way and pummel a few enemies in the process.

The downside of slow motion is that it’s only activated by bullets. Explosions and melee attacks are just as deadly, but they don’t trigger the ability. So if you’re struggling with a portion of the game that only involves melee enemies, slow motion does nothing to help you finish the level.

Speaking of melee enemies, certain baddies can leap forward and hit you with a sword, but their striking distance is huge, and they can attack off-screen. Enemies with grenade launchers can also attack off-screen, and unless you have "Spidey senses," you’re probably not going to see the grenade until it’s too late to avoid it. I’ve nearly chucked my keyboard across the room after repeatedly dying in the thick of battle because of attacks I couldn’t see coming.

Gripes aside, I had a blast playing Mr. Shifty. Good mechanics can suck me into a game better than any story, and the experience of feeling like a superhuman can justify a $15 price tag -- even if the experience was brief.

Final score: 7.8 out of 10

A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of review.

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