Everyone knows platform games have seen better days. Once the gold standard of the industry, the model is now relegated to the kiddie set or the occasional retro reboot. That being said, leave it to the folks at Armor Games to bring back the genre with for a curtain call with its puzzle platformer :Shift:.
Our hero, an unnamed silhouette trapped in a giant science experiment, is pitted against a stark black and white labyrinth of puzzle rooms. Like the old school Pitfall Harry games, you run and jump your way through screen after screen of deadly pits, spiked walls, and trap doors. The goal is simple: escape each room by reaching the lone door at the opposite end. What sets this platformer apart, however, is our hero’s uncanny ability to shift through the floor and flip the entire world 180 degrees. Doing so allows players to see the room from a completely different perspective. High platforms are now pits you can safely fall on, and unobtainable keys are now at your fingertips. Sound strange? It’s actually pretty intuitive once you get the hang of it.
Graphics: This is one of the few instances where simple, 2-D animation adds value to the game. More colors or would pull away from the noir feel and make deciphering between both sides of the room difficult. Like a good graphic novel, sometimes the best image is the simplest.
Atmosphere: Even though the look is stark, the game is actually pretty funny. Each new screen comes with message from some unknown figure who is apparently watching you. Sometimes these messages are helpful, but most of the time they are simply there to poke fun at your progress. Combine this with the groovy jazz soundtrack that seems to be uprooted from a 60’s spy flick and you have a game that knows how to keep things light.
Puzzles: Even thought the constant need to flip the screen around may require your brain to think a bit, no puzzle is beyond comprehension. Once stuck, you can usually flip the screen around a couple of times to find the way out. The timer, however, does create a false sense of urgency; its only true purpose is to compare your end time against the world-wide leader board.
Controls: Jumping can be unforgiving, especially when you leap across a long row of spikes or a large pit. Shifting, too, can be a bit difficult. If any part of your character stands over the edge of platform, you will not be able to shift until you step back. This isn’t detrimental, but as you start competing for better times, this gets annoying. The attempt to incorporate the accelerometer to shift is a bit dull, but the option to switch the feature to an on-screen button renders this point moot.
Even though :Shift: and its three sequels are available as online flash games, the iPhone version is a great port that fits nicely into anyone’s game library.
:Shift: was developed by Armor Games and is available for $0.99. I played through version 1.1 on an iPod Touch 2G. It’s important to note that the game is formally called :Shift:, and is not to be confused with the game Shift. There’s also a lite version to try.
Editor’s note: Please welcome Christopher to the No DPad team! Look for more reviews from him in the future, as well as other content. You can find more information about him by reading his bio on the About page.