Shift Is a Fine Puzzler

Echochrome was one of my favorite games of 2008. It was a PSP downloadable puzzle game that was all about changing perspectives and using physics to solve puzzles to complete levels. So when a game brings back memories of spending hours playing through Echochrome, it’s a very good thing in my world. The shift isn’t a clone of Echochrome in any sense, but Armor Games has created a puzzle game that puts the emphasis on creating a way out of no way to move through the game. An interesting premise for sure, but as always, folks want to know if the execution is on point and if this is a fun game. At its core, Shift is a classic “here” to “there” puzzle game. From there, it trails off the beaten path dramatically. You’re a guy that’s in an environment that consists of only two colors, black and white. This is the means to create the main mechanic for the whole game, as the way to navigate around the level is done by shifting perspective to get a different view of the level. So what appears to be a dead end can magically become a staircase by shifting perspective by tilting the iPhone forwards or backward. You’ll climb stairs, make jumps, avoid spikes, and collect keys to unlock moving platforms all in the effort to exit through the door to complete the level.

Control mechanics are solid, but they’ll take some time to get used to. Movement left or right is controlled through holding the arrows on the screen. If you want to jump, you have to tap the arrow that isn’t being used while holding the arrow that is being used to walk. This isn’t a scheme I was used to, but it was the right decision versus having an imprecise control stick on the screen. Shifting is done by tilting the iPhone, but there are ways to modify that mechanic in the options menu.

The presentation in Shift will not blow up anyone’s skirt, but the minimalistic approach is effective. After all, there’s only so many things you can do with a black and white color palette. Slick menus and short loading times are included, but my favorite part of the presentation is the music. It uses a throwback detective musical ditty that’s full of percussion and brass instruments. If you’re not feeling the music, the game allows you to listen to stuff from your iPod library as well. For a buck, I had a great time playing through Shift. It’s not the most full-featured game out there, and it’s not going to be the hardest or most expansive game you’ve ever played either. All I can say is that Shift is an outstanding and unique puzzler that I suspect many people will enjoy.

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