You know when you’re bored in charge of Adobe PhotoShop or another, possibly legally obtained piece of photo editing software, and you play around with the tools to see what you can do to Facebook photos of your friends? You know the sort of thing: swap their head with that of a Chihuahua; paint rude words on their shirt; turn them green. One tool you probably stumble upon quite quickly is the invert tool, basically swapping all the colours to the opposite on the spectrum, so your gran may suddenly become green or a sunny day becomes a post-apocalyptic zombie fallout zone.
Well imagine if that tool was in a video game, then you get Shifting World, a new game for Nintendo’s 3DS console that sees you take charge of a 30s-style detective who gets sucked into a parallel monochromatic dimension, as told in a witty very short introductory story which is this game’s equivalent of the deus ex machina that leads to the Princess being kidnapped at the beginning of every Mario game. There he encounters the Duke, your rival and seemingly the master of this domain, who chides you as you explore.
Each level is based around a maze that you have to explore using the circle pad to move and the ‘b’ button to jump. The overall map is displayed on the touch screen, showing where you are in relation to the obstacles, the exit door and various objects such as keys. Your mission is simple: get to the exit door to get to the next level, grabbing keys to open up routes or use other items to aid your journey such as number switches that you can activate by shifting on them (see below), whilst also avoiding obstacles that do you harm such as the video game staple of the spikes. But there’s a twist.
You can also invert the level (“shifting”) by pressing one of the shoulder buttons, sending the top screen into a spin and turning you and your surroundings from black to white. Where there were gaps in the maze, there are now platforms and visa versa – in effect turning the maze upside down – allowing you to reach areas you might not have been able to before. By moving around the map and swapping between states in this parallel dimension you can progress through the maze and grab keys and get to the exit. But beware! There are checkerboard blocks that you can’t flip the level on!
The concept behind Shifting World is certainly a unique one, and you’re eased into it gently through the first levels that are basic, but the difficulty gets ramped up swiftly but not uncomfortably, introducing new concepts as you enter each of the subsequent worlds, of which there are seven, each made up of a number of individual levels, totalling around sixty overall.
Graphically, the game is minimalist with the platformers naturally blocky, but there is a pleasing art-deco style that is matched by the repeating, but not repetitive, ragga piano score. The 3D works well on the top screen, adding some depth to the action, but doesn’t really add much to the gameplay, being neither distracting nor useful, though later levels promise a layer shifting style so it probably comes more into use there.
Alongside the main adventure mode, where you can set completion times on the levels, you can access Time Attack mode where you can play back certain levels to try and beat your best time and your character dissolves if you fail to beat that time. Otherwise it’s a very minimalistic game with not even a menu to pore over.
The controls mostly work well in the game with the occasional issue in jumping and it’s very easy to pick up and play. Gameplay-wise Shifting World is surprisingly addictive in its simplicity. The difficulty curve is spot on and the levels interesting to play and there is a certain satisfaction in completing a level. Deaths are rare – but when they do occur they annoyingly send you back to the start of the level – and it does feel at times like completing the level is down to trial and error as much as it is to skill, but the game does try and hand-hold you at times. Though the minimalistic style suits the game, it also feels like a 3DS Shop game cheekily packaged into a full release, a bit like releasing PullBlox as an on-the-shelf product. This game is also based on a free-to-play internet game which is perhaps a little cheeky, but this version has much more depth, more exciting graphics and feels more natural to play on a games console rather than on a keyboard, but it’s perhaps worth heading over to http://armorgames.com/play/751/shift to see what you think of the gameplay.
That all said, it’s a fun game to play and it’s not a walk in the park to complete the levels with some just about bordering on the right side of frustration even as early on as world two, and there’s much to enjoy in completing the adventure mode and then the subsequent time trial, but it’s a game that won’t have much lifespan after a play through.
But the game looks to give around six to eight hours of gameplay, so that’s not a bad time tally. An enjoyable, addictive, innovative puzzle idea even if the game play relies on perseverance as much as it does logic and the simple graphics and music suggest it would be more at home on the download store with a £4.50 price tag.
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