In recent years several browser based flash games have had success in switching over full releases on consoles and exposing themselves (stop it!) to a whole new (paying) audience. From Trials and Sperlunky to Super Meat Boy and now Shifting World which follows up its PSP and iOS releases by making an appearance on Nintendo’s 3DS.
Based on the popular flash game Shift, Shifting World is a puzzle platformer which attempts to enhance the originals formula, while adding new elements to the original’s simple gameplay.
Shifting involves manipulating the game’s black and white world to navigate your way through each of the 60+ levels. The only way I can begin to describe it is that you may navigate your way through the world in black up to a point before getting stuck, then “shifting” to the white world via a quick tap of the shoulder button, which allows you to continue your pursuit of the exit. It’s this core mechanic that provides the crux of the game’s puzzles; “shifting” at the right points to progress, and while it may be confusing to begin with, you soon get to grips with it. Later stages, however, change things up by introducing other elements such as spikes and switches that open up pathways, and while it stops you from getting too comfortable it can leave you scratching your head a little too often.
As with any puzzle game, the story here plays second fiddle to gameplay and mechanics. You find yourself invited to attend the home of the ever so creepily named Duke of Shadows, and then somehow transported to a parallel universe; that’s pretty much if for the story. Although apparently inspired by Portal it certainly didn’t draw influence with creating a humorous, engaging storyline to pull you through the task of navigate each level, “shifting” the environment as you go.
It’s not just the story that takes a back seat either: graphically Shifting World doesn’t offer much. The whole game is in black and white and while that’s obviously a design choice to support the mechanics it does feel a little lacking. Whereas games like Limbo and Deadlight have used the colour scheme to great effect, here it just feels a little lazy and uninspired.
Uninspired is a word I could use a lot in this review to be honest. After trying out the original flash game, you can see why someone thought this could work on handheld systems. The small single screen levels challenged you to stop and plot your course, before testing your reflexes as you shifted your way through. However, Shifting World’s attempt at larger scale maps doesn’t quite work as your view of the level is severely limited, and you can often find yourself hopelessly stuck on a section you’ve previously completed as it all looks so similar.
The limited view can also hinder the gameplay at times. Often you will find yourself victim of instant kill hazards that you just couldn’t see, sending you back to the beginning of the level time and time again. There is a map on the lower screen in an attempt to counter this issue, but it’s so nondescript and far too small, especially when icons designed to help you cover up large chunks of the map.
Overall Shifting World has the heart of a decent puzzler but its numerous flaws do it no favours. Occasional input lag is unforgivable in a platform game. Advertising three game modes is also a little devious, yes you can play the story mode, replay completed levels in Adventure Mode or even replay levels with a timer in Time attack, it’s hardly new, extra content.
While Shifting World’s release as a discount title on the 3DS may attract a few sales it’s still hard not to feel the game would have been more suited to a release on Nintendo’s eShop download service, in much the same way PullBlox/PushMo was. And while it wouldn’t make you forgive its problems entirely, it would have possibly made it seem like more value for money.
MLG Rating: 4/10 Platform: 3DS Release Date: 29/09/2012
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Shifting World for review purposes by the promoter. The title was reviewed over the course of one week on a 3DS. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here