With orange and blue being complimentary colors, it should come as no surprise that several games use them to distinguish their co-op characters or various other elements. With Portal being the first example that comes to mind, I can say that it is an effective tactic that is appealing to the eye at the very least. Being a puzzle-platformer focused on co-op, Shift Happens’ color choice is not the only thing that made me think of Portal. Beyond the colors and the genre, Shift Happens even takes place in a science facility area and has two very silly characters. Named Bismo and Plom, these characters will not only be who players use to get through the levels but will also be the driving force behind the game’s plot.
Our main characters’ silly names have a similar silly demeanor. Being made entirely out of some kind of goo helps the characters be goofy without ever doing very much. Bismo and Plom are tied together by a sort of science-y accident that makes it so that when grows in size, the other shrinks. This accidental bond will be how our unlikely heroes help one another through the game’s various levels. Without traditional dialog or even many real emotes to communicate with each other through, Bismo and Plom rely heavily on their shared power to do nearly everything from showing joy to passing trials.
While growing and shrinking may not seem like a profound power, but in fact is used in several different ways in order to reach the end of each level. Many times, Bismo may be stuck behind a wall that only Plom can get rid of by pulling a lever in a different portion of the stage. Likewise, Plom may need to use a platform that is only accessible while Bismo is standing on a button below or to the side of said platform. These buttons (like many other obstacles) can only be used by certain sized characters. Outside of the puzzles, the game’s platforming also requires players to think about their size since the smaller version of our characters jumps further and can squeeze into the smaller crevices that the larger version simply cannot.
Unfortunately, I didn’t really enjoy the main mechanic of Shift Happens enough to play all of it’s 40+ levels (spanning 4 worlds), but I can say that I can see why others may enjoy it enough to play all the way through. One thing that may actually draw me back is how the game’s levels have these paths of collectibles that encourage players to explore side paths that may have been ignored at a first glance. Whether it be a few individual pieces that lead to a hidden area or a cluster that is simply hard to reach without a little extra thought. While playing single player, this becomes tedious rather quickly since switching between characters to reach certain areas took far longer than it would with a co-op partner.
It doesn’t matter if Shift Happens is played by one player or two, the game is more or less the same and asks only slightly different things from players in each mode. The levels always ask for Bismo and Plom to work together, but this doesn’t feel quite as smooth and clean when played single player. Due to the nature of Bismo and Plom’s relationship, actual co-op is the far more preferred way of experiencing Shift Happens. The biggest issue with single player has to be how players have to switch between Bismo and Plom in order to complete tasks that require cooperation between the two characters. This switching causes a certain disconnect from the flow the game should have and made me stop playing single player altogether because levels that should have taken just a few minutes would drag on due to me having to bring Bismo (or Plom) up to the same area as Plom (or Bismo). Due to this, I feel Shift Happens would have been a prime candidate for either a seperate single player campaign or maybe some Brothers-esque control scheme that allows a single player to control both characters simultaneously.
Shift Happens is an adorable puzzle platformer that has a focus on co-op that is responsible for one of the game’s only faults. The silly and bright look of the game is endearing and makes things easier to distinguish than other games with dark, muddier looks. While the main mechanic does get a little repetitive, it is still unique and interesting. Combining this with the games platforming and puzzles, Shift Happens becomes an enjoyable title that should keep fans of co-op games busy for a little while. There may not be as many levels as in some other games, but 40 levels is nothing to scoff at either. Like I mentioned before however, these levels are much more enjoyable when they are played in co-op with a friend. I never found any issues or bugs that made the game any less playable or fun and can see myself playing the game even more once I can get a co-op partner that wants to play it with me.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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