For a protagonist’s name, Mr Shifty leaves a lot to be desired. It sounds like the nickname your parents would give to that one creepy guy in the neighbourhood that you should stay away from. “He’s called Mr Shifty for a reason kids, keep your distance”. At least this Mr Shifty earns his name by being able to teleport. Handy when you’re trying to infiltrate someone’s evil skyscraper.
Mr Shifty was described by the development team as Hotline Miami meets Nightcrawler, and it’s a more accurate comparison than we ever could hope to create. Essentially, you work your way through rooms of bad guy armed with two fists, whatever melee weapons you can find and the ability to teleport.
It’s a brilliant mechanic that allows you to get the drop on enemies in other rooms and dash away before you’re cornered. Other enemies must play by the laws of the level geometry whilst you galivant around knocking seven shades of crap out of evil henchmen. Despite the fact that you die in one hit, being able to teleport instantly makes you feel like the deadliest guy in the room.
Throughout the game’s 18 stages, you’re constantly being presented with new challenges, whether that be in the form of new enemy types or different traps. The variety of enemy types encourages you to be more strategic when tackling a new room. Do you defeat the RPG guys first and mop up the rest or do you try and goad them into blowing up their comrades? Of course, you could also just play fast and loose and see what happens. Both methods can lead to fantastic results.
The traps, however, are where the game falters somewhat. There’s your usual laser traps which are fine and expected, but the second act introduces a trap which nullifies your abilities in that room. The whole mechanic that makes the game special and rewarding to play is taken away from you sporadically until the end of the game.
Those sections are uniquely frustrating, as the game just becomes Hotline Miami; no Nightcrawler in sight. With no teleport to fall back on, you’re forced to slow things down, waiting for the right moment to strike. It’s diametrically opposed to what the rest of the game is about, as you’re required to play by the enemy’s rules instead of your own.
It’s not a dealbreaking problem, just one that can lead to some really dull moments. The real dealbreaker is the litany of framerate issues we encountered during our review. We’re not currently sure if this is unique to us, to the Xbox One or if it’s universal, but the issues were there. When the game gets hectic, which is all the time during the third act, the framerate is reduced to a snail’s pace, ruining the flow of the game and sometimes even leading to an unfair death.
It comepletely spoils the experience of an otherwise exciting and enjoyable top-down “Nightcrawler-’em-up”. If Team Shifty can issue a patch for those framerate issues, Mr Shifty would be a hard game not to recommend. Until then though, you might be better off waiting.