Shifting World? More Like Shifting Quality
Back in 2008, a free flash based game was released by the name of Shift. It was a rather unique puzzle game in which the player navigated areas by shifting the world upside down. The black & white visuals stopped players from becoming confused by making it clear what side of the world you were currently on. It was a great little title then and it’s sequels are also worthy of similar praise, dare I call it the Portal of 2D games?
Shifting World marks the series’ debut on the 3DS and with it brings changes but unfortunately none of them make for a better game. The basic concept of a little man running around a black & white environments using the shift ability to find exits is still here. The biggest change however is that Shifting World is a much bigger game than it ever was during it’s flash based days, levels are no longer single screens but actual worlds that players can get lost in. The problem now is that you’ll spend most of your time wondering around levels instead of focusing on how to reach the exit or collect a key.
The team isn’t hiding the fact that this game is much bigger than before, it’s literally stated in the name of the game, Shifting World. The second screen on the 3DS is used to display a map which sounds extremely useful but ends up being rather useless thanks to the 3DS’ low resolution screen. In additional to just being a bit of an eye sore, the icons on the map screen end up covering sections of the map therefore making it impossible to see anything. Even worse is the inability to manually zoom in which would of helped greatly.
Despite being one of the most simple games around visually, there’s actually a surprising amount of performance issues that affect the game directly. Shifting World is made up of simple block shapes, everything is coloured in black & white yet the game stutters badly whenever a key is collected. The 3D portion of the game isn’t much better as it’s barely noticeable and in what is a growing trend among 3DS games, the title screen is the only time the 3D feature is put to good use.
Shifting World is also responsible for committing a sin in the puzzle genre, unresponsive controls. Most of the time they work but due to the performance spikes, you’re not 100% confident when making a deadly leap of faith. Eventually I worked out the problem was, pressing the jump at the same time as a direction on the circle pad means your character will move but not jump. It’s really stupid because if you’re standing on a ledge, as a gamer your natural reaction is pressing both at the same time but it won’t work here and instead you’ll drop to your death on the spikes. There’s no checkpoints so once you die, you start the level again and will have to collect all those keys again.
In terms of extra content, outside the levels themselves there’s not much to write about. Adventure mode is basically a level select and Time Attack simply adds a timer to those same levels. There’s no leaderboards to speak of so there’s no incentive to set any kind of fast clear time since no one but you will ever see it. It’s a pretty bare bones package but at least there’s plenty of levels in the main game to keep you going.
In the end Shifting World is a game that I really wanted to like but couldn’t. You’re essentially paying for something you can play online for free, it’s even worse when you consider that Shifting Worlds isn’t as good as the previous games. The larger worlds combined with a useless map turn an enjoyable puzzle game into a frustrating one, the clunky controls and choppy visuals don’t help either. Shifting World reminds me of the upgraded versions of Tetris, no one likes the extra shapes and “upgrades”.
It’s a bit of a shame because the core concept of flipping worlds upside down worked very nicely in previous games, it’s something that’s easy to grasp and even easier to recommend to a friend. The larger worlds could of worked if the map screen were better implemented although the low resolution of the 3DS isn’t helping matters either. Since the game is all black & white, it means that every area looks the same and without a decent map as a safety net, the entire game sadly falls apart as a result.
Shifting World is an ambitious sequel that proves that bigger isn’t always better, you’re better off sticking to the more finely tuned originals.