Title: Shiftlings: Enhanced Edition
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Available on: Nintendo Switch
Developers: Rock Pocket Games
Release Date: February 1st, 2018
Three years after Rocket Pocket Games launched its colorful platformer on the PlayStation 4, Shiftlings: Enhanced Edition has arrived on the Nintendo Switch. And while the game certainly benefits from the console’s co-op friendly design, most of the same problems from the original version are still present.
Shiftlings: Enhanced Edition takes little time introducing its wacky world, as players are greeted by an alien announcer who introduces the two main protagonists, the Shiftlings. Competing in a reality game show of sorts, the Shiftlings must traverse over 50 exotic levels in order to win the game. All the while they must solve puzzles using their unique shifting ability. The ability is pretty simple: one character can blow up into a big balloon-like mass, while the other must remain normal size.
This mechanic really helps Shiftlings: Enhanced Edition stand out amongst the bevy of puzzle platformers in the modern market. Being able to use a shiftling to pull another down as a result momentum and weight and also being able to jump on the large one to reach otherwise unreachable heights really lends to some fresh level design and situations in the game. With that being said, the puzzles do have their issues.
With 50 plus levels in the game, there is a fair amount of repetition that takes place. Gaps, heights, rolling platforms, and other dangers certainly provide variety, but the actions are still the same, resulting in stale gameplay. Timing is what truly differentiates puzzles in Shiftlings: Enhanced Edition. The only problem is that, more often than not, the timing comes down to luck, as opposed to skill. The trial and error method is by no means new for this type of genre, but seeing as shifting is marketed as the games focal point, it is a shame that a lot of the puzzles come down to simply getting lucky after dozens of attempts. Something that was made evermore frustrating in the games single player mode.
When compared to other single player modes in co-op puzzle games, like Death Squared and Shift Happens, Shiftlings: Enhanced Edition does seem to put effort into giving players who want to play alone the ability to do so. Specific buttons allow the ability to switch between players like most games in the genre, but there is also a button that when held moved both players at once. Unfortunately, the button mapping can be clunky at times, taking some getting used to in the early levels alone.
Shiftlings: Enhanced Edition certainly shines when playing with a friend though. Unlike the other platforms the game released on, the Joy Con controllers feel handmade for the co-op version of the game. Each button has a purpose and flows considerable well once you and a friend get a hang of the controls. Making your own fun in the game with a friend is a blast. Be sure to make up your own stories though, as the main one for Shiftlings: Enhanced Edition is…odd.
Farts, bad jokes, and a childlike, but vibrant, color scheme end up being one of the low-lights of the game. This wouldn’t be as big of a problem if the game didn’t spend so much time trying to build this odd world and story. Alongside an annoyingly crass announcer, the two main protagonists of the game really don’t have a personality. All the game provides is that they are two cosmic custodians tasked with solving their way through a galactic game show. If they separate from the hose that connects them, they die. Not much backstory is given as to why they are doing this, or why the worlds/levels are setup the way they are. All in all, it felt like the alien arc of Jimmy Neutron in look and feel, something I wasn’t entirely as open to experiencing as an adult.
The saving grace for the single-player portion of Shiftlings: Enhanced Edition was the end of level boss fights. These bonus stages were unlocked at the end of every level via collecting items throughout the previous stages. While they were certainly as frustrating as some of the timing puzzles in the game, I never found myself disliking the trial and error fights. These are just as fun, if not more so, with a friend too!
Verdict: Shiftlings: Enhanced Edition doesn’t really change much from the original console versions of the game. Many of the same frustrating and repetitive problems exist, but so do a lot of the fun parts of the platformer. Out of all of the other releases, the game definitely finds its home on the Nintendo Switch though, as Joy Con controllers are perfect for the co-op portion of the game. While it may not be worth it alone, definitely pick up the game for the fun it’ll provide playing with friends.
- Switch fit co-op
- Boss fights
- Single player
- Story focus and immaturity
- Luck vs Skill