Game Review #066: Shift Happens (Nintendo Switch)
Reviewer: Sara T.
Developer: Klonk Games
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Category: Puzzle, Platformer, Action, Multiplayer
Release Date: 10.10.2018
Download Shift Happens from the Nintendo eShop here.
The Bismo is a Plom
Platform-puzzlers are just about my favorite genre of game for everyday playing. My gaming habits are such that I don't often have three solid hours at a time to sit and really dig into a game - and when I do, I have games for that. Boy, do I have games for that. Shift Happens, though, is the perfect kind of game for my everyday life: it is a fun, platformy puzzle game that you can sit and play for a few minutes alone or with a friend, or spend all night playing while chilling on the couch. It starts out simple and ratchets up the difficulty in later levels, but earlier levels are replayable with new challenges if you get stuck. Just as easy to play in the waiting room at the dentist as in your underwear on the recliner at home.
In Shift Happens, you and a friend (or just you in the single-player mode) play as two characters borne of a lab mishap named Bismo and Plom. They are, respectively, red and green amorphous blobs born in a mysterious, Portal-like laboratory. Bismo and Plom are adorable gummy guys who can shift forms from a small, fast, high-jumping character to a large, lumbering, strong lump of shiny goo depending on the situation. A series of mishaps causes them to be intrinsically linked - when one character is small, the other is always large, and vice-versa. In single-player mode, you take control of both characters, switching from one to the other as necessary while making your way through the various holodecks connected to the laboratory from which our heroes escape.
To be honest, I quickly bored myself of single-player mode as soon as I tried 2-player co-op. This mode is where the game really shines. The game also offers online multiplayer, but that pales in comparison to being in the room with the Bismo to your Plom, working out the puzzles and throwing each other around on the screen. Thanks to the forgiving "death" system, after drowning, electrocution, or various other mishaps that cause your goo-guy to lose his shape, your partner can bring you back with a simple button press to continue the action.
In single player mode, I found the controls to be a bit plodding and had trouble remembering which button shifted and which button switched between my two characters. It took some getting used to but eventually, I was able to move around a little bit more quickly when I got the hang of switching characters so that I didn't run too far ahead of the unused Bismo or Plom, who just sits there like a greyed-out sack of potatoes while you are in control of their counterpart.
Multiplayer, on the other hand, is a different story. Removing the cumbersome switching mechanic makes it possible to move very quickly through maps while with a similarly experienced second player. The game offers an option to time yourself on subsequent runs-through of stages and try to beat your best times, as well as additional coins to collect in each stage, many of which require you to deeply explore a stage or strongly exploit the movement and co-op mechanics. I had no interest in doing this on single player mode thanks to the difficulty of mastering the movement of two characters, one at a time.
In either mode, the game provides mini-stages between larger ones to give you an opportunity to learn and practice a new skill that will come in handy when solving subsequent maps, and also prompts you throughout gameplay when a certain button input or co-op movement is necessary.
The audio and visuals are exactly what I look for in my Switch games: cute characters and colorful, fun stages. The graphics are simple, as you would expect from an inexpensive indie game, but polished and fun to look at. The music is unobtrusive and catchy, and enjoyable while playing the game. In character selection, each player is given a variety of fun hats to select for Bismo and Plom, ranging from simple caps to wearing what appears to be a pair of dentures on the character’s head. While these make no difference whatsoever in actual gameplay, it is another fun element adding to the overall cuteness of the game.
This game strives to bring back the "couch co-op" games of yore, where two (or more) people could sit on a couch and work together to get through a game. The co-op in this game is so good, it almost could have done without single-player mode at all. The forgiving gameplay and replayability of single stages make this game perfect for casual gamers and rabid completists alike. I keep coming back to compare it to legendary platform-puzzle game Portal, and Shift Happens encourages the comparison as it is peppered with blatant homages to Portal itself, but this game is definitely not a Portal clone. Shift Happens takes the platform puzzle game and opens it up, giving us a social experience as well as a fun and challenging puzzler to solve. So I do recommend it to fans of Portal and other puzzle games, but also to anyone who is a fan of playing a game with a friend - or several.
Final Score: 7/10
Download Shift Happens from the Nintendo eShop here.
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*Review Code Provided by Daedalic Entertainment