Game: Shifting World
Developer: Fishing Cactus/Armor Games
Publisher: Rising Star Games
Available on: Nintendo 3DS Only
The Nintendo 3DS certainly isn’t short of puzzle games. A quick look at the eShop will reveal countless puzzlers capable of eating up lots of bus journey time. Enter Shifting World, a full retail adaptation of the popular Flash game series SHIFT. Should you pick it up instead of one of the many online offerings?
Shifting World has one fundamental game mechanic that we need to go through before we can talk about whether the game is any good. In Shifting World, you control a well dressed man who has been transported to another dimension, in which he is able to ‘shift’ his monochrome surroundings in an effort to find the puzzles exit. A shift flips the world upside down, and makes the white surfaces you were walking through solid, and the black surfaces you were walking on disappear. It’s an interesting concept, simple in principle and it works brilliantly in the browser versions of the game. However, here on the 3DS? I’m not so sure.
Shifting World features eight worlds with over sixty levels in its main adventure mode, which will take you a long time to get through. The levels start out simple enough, and ease you into the game nicely. As you progress the challenge increases to a point that will have you scratching your head for hours. The main shift mechanic is complemented by some simple platforming and a few other puzzle elements, which is a plus since the shifting alone wouldn’t be enough to hold one’s interest for very long.
A typical level will see you run and jump your way to an impasse, usually within a few seconds of the level’s starting location. At this point, you will need to hit L or R to flip the world over to see if a new route through the level becomes apparent. The levels are littered with arrow heads that give hints as to where you might want to head, that being a key location or the exit itself. Early levels feature just the aforementioned keys, which are used to remove chequered blocks which cannot be shifted upon, and later levels add another layer of intrigue with numbered switches which must be carefully managed as you flip the world again and again, removing and adding blocks to the world in an effort to get closer to the exit.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking; “Wow, this game sounds really interesting!”, and you are right, it does sound interesting, it even looks interesting, but when you sit down and play it, it revels several flaws that suck the fun right out of what is a cracking game concept. Being a full retail release, the game developers probably thought that the levels needed to be bigger than their Flash counterparts. This is a fair assumption, however on the 3DS’s little screen, you only get a small picture of the world around you, so flipping the world around becomes more hit and hope than a deliberate action. The levels are big, some of them huge, and it’s often difficult to know which path to take since what’s shown on screen isn’t particularly revealing. The lower screen does show a level map, but this is, for the most, part a pixelated mess and is of no help whatsoever.
As a plus point, the game has a Time Attack mode, which sits separate from the game’s main Adventure Mode. In time attack, the levels are shorter and you must get to the exit before the time runs out. Think of it as Shifting World concentrated, which is just how I like it. Time Attack is closer to the experience of the browser based games that came before. Smaller levels that aren’t confusing and off-putting. I really enjoyed the Time Attack levels, it’s just a shame there aren’t more of them.
Shifting World keeps it simple in the graphics department. The game is essentially a collection of shaded boxes, with a small man running around on them. There isn’t a lot to write home about, which isn’t a bad thing since the game’s selling point lends itself to this presentation style. It’s simple, but effective. All of which makes the lag I experienced all the more confusing. There really isn’t a lot going on at any one time in Shifting World, yet every now and again the frame rate will drop and the controls won’t respond, often at the worst possible moment, when mid-air over a spike pit for example, meaning a trip back to the level’s start point. Yep, no checkpoints here, folks.
VERDICT: Shifting World is a disappointing title. Disappointing because it takes a concept that should have been a joy to play on the 3DS and makes it frustrating. A pleasure in places, yes, but the bugs and level design here make for a game that feels like it’s not right for its platform. Or indeed for this world. The Flash games worked, however, so perhaps less really is more?