Puzzle games are all the rage at the moment so it’s not surprising to see Norwegian studio Rock Pocket Games making the jump from mobile games into the home console market. And I have to give credit where it’s due, Shiftings is an interesting concept, but it’s, unfortunately, one that never reaches its full potential.
Shiftlings sees you control two rather dim witted aliens who are attached to each either by an air supply hose that allows for them to pass gas between themselves. By collecting ‘Black Hola Cola’ which are dotted around each level, you have the ability to pass the gas between each character, making one large and heavy and the other small and agile. This mechanism opens up the game from what seems like a relatively basic level design and turns it on its head, suddenly things don’t look so easy and you really do have to think about how you can use this ability to collect every item and reach the exit.
Where the issue lies is with the control scheme. The left control stick is used to move around, B is jump, A is used to swap between characters and X is used to swap size. And it’s the A and X buttons that were the issue for me. I don’t know how many times I would accidentally press the X button instead of A which completely ruined my progress in a puzzle. There were several moments where I would press the wrong button and I’d end up having to start the puzzle again.
It is baffling to me that Rock Pocket Games would use these two buttons when the Wii U GamePad has a wide range of buttons available to avoid this very annoying issue. It would have made much more sense to have Y change the size and the L/R buttons to switch between characters. It would have taken much of the frustration out of the game.
One of the abilities you have is the ability to bounce the lighter character off the larger one to reach items out of your normal reach. This works perfectly well if you jump from quite a height, but it’s incredibly difficult to get right if you are jumping from a smaller ledge. It would take numerous attempts to get the jump right, most of the time you end up just falling to the floor. It’s a frustrating glitch which takes the enjoyment out of a game which has a lot of potential.
Graphically, the game is impressive and it’s clear to see that a lot of effort has been put into making it look great. Everything is very shiny and sleek, colours are vibrant but it’s all a bit too much. I don’t really know how to describe it but there is too much detail, particularly in a game like this where the camera is zoomed out, the characters tend to blend into the background instead of standing out. The narrative of the story is a little disappointing. The voice over tends to repeat the same lines over and over again to the point where I switched it off.
There are over 50 levels to play through but you’re only going to make it to the very end if you have a lot of patience. If you get easily frustrated then this game is not for you, the control scheme is silly and takes a while getting used to. If you’re willing to put the time in then there is a good game buried in here, you just have to work to find it.