Version Tested: PS4
Also available on: PC, XONE
Developer: Rock Pocket Games
Publisher: Sierra Games
Genre: Puzzle Platformer
The current landscape of puzzle platformers features game mechanics such as slowing down time, changing dimensions, turning the world upside, and now… exchanging gas through spacesuits. Shiftlings, a quirky puzzler from Rocket Pocket Games, features two reluctant heroes, Purple Plop and Green Goop, as they complete menial shift work throughout the galaxy. Their day-jobs are showcased on an intergalactic reality show called “Shiftlings.” Zookod Neutrino, a dashing purple alien with a golden voice, hosts the show.
During a routine job Green Goop finds a super fizzy interstellar soft drink and subsequently gulps down every last drop. The resulting gas fills up his spacesuit and to the horror of Purple Plop, the gas can be transferred via hose that connects the two workers’ air supplies. This is main mechanic in the game. As the player navigates obstacles a simple button press will switch the air from one shiftling to the other. The blown up shiflting can be used to push heavy objects, pull the smaller shiftling around, or be bounced on to reach higher areas. Being big comes with a price; the enlarged shiftling, be it Goop or Plop, can’t jump as high the smaller one. Players can switch between the shiftlings easily, but another player can drop in for co-op puzzle solving.
The objective in each level is to reach a platform and press a button. The shiftlings will do whatever work they’ve been tasked with and then the player needs to navigate them to the exit. Repeat this exercise fifty times and you’ve beaten the game. The biggest downfall of Shiftlings is its repetitive nature. The main mechanics of the game aren’t enough to keep players interested. After ten levels the shiftlings are whisked away to another world with a new type of obstacle. These new obstacles do little to enhance the monotonous nature of the shift work.
Shiftlings features beautiful candy colored visuals, but the level design stops the intergalactic locales from really coming to life. Each level within a world feels the same as the last, just with rearranged blocks. The game switches things up, in terms of scope, when the player hits level ten of a world, but the objective is still the same: make it to whatever is broken, press a button, and then head to the exit. Shiftlings feels more like a chore than a video game.
Goop and Plop don’t talk, but a narrator from the reality show describes what is happening on screen. The game attempts to inject humor and more often than not the jokes fall flat. Certain lines try to ape the signature humor of Portal, including trying to imitate GLaDOS’s voice, however the writing isn’t of the same quality. Shiftlings just isn’t that funny. It is cute though. The character designs are reminiscent of early Ratchet and Clank titles and watching a balloon-like alien in a spacesuit float across the screen when he becomes untethered, one of the ways to die, it’s chuckle-worthy.
Shiftlings is a cute distraction, but its repetitive gameplay and lackluster world-building keep it from standing with the myriad of puzzle platformers already on the market.
You can purchase now on Steam, Xbox One, or PS4 for $14.99. Leave us your comments below on this game and what you think about it! We value your input :)
Freelance writer and screenwriter living in Pittsburgh. Film buff, video game buff, and music buff, but not actually buff.