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Shift Happens Indie Puzzle Platformer Preview

Shift Happens Indie Puzzle Platformer Preview

We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Klonk Games and  Deck13 Interactive GmbH for the preview copy of Shift Happens used for this preview. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to preview, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this preview. Receiving the preview copy for free had no impact on the content of this preview.

At the time of this preview Shift Happens is in the early stages of early access on Steam. For those of you not familiar with early access, this means that the game is not yet finished as the developers are continuing to add new features and fixing issues with the game. Due to the game not being complete, this preview will not feature a rating/score. At this time Shift Happens is expected to stay in early access until early 2016. This preview may be updated in the future based on updates to the game. When the game leaves early access, Geeky Hobbies will feature a full review of the game.

Releasing today (September 9th, 2015) Shift Happens is an early access puzzle platformer developed by Klonk Games. In Shift Happens you play as Bismo and Plom, two blob-like creatures that have been linked together. This forces the two creatures to share the same mass. When one of them is in their larger form the other has to be in their smaller form and vice versa. Bismo and Plom must work together in order to solve puzzles to continue on their journey. While the game has some work to go, Shift Happens appears to have a solid base for an interesting puzzle platformer.

A Cooperative Puzzle Platformer

Shift Happens is a cooperative puzzle platformer. The main mechanics in the game involve solving puzzles which are interspersed with various platforming challenges. The puzzles usually involve using the two different characters in tandem to accomplish specific tasks. The platforming is usually involved in the puzzles themselves or as a bridge connecting the puzzles together.

While the game contains both single player and multiplayer levels, multiplayer is where Shift Happens is at its’ best. While I didn’t test the online multiplayer, the local co-op works well. The multiplayer works well since the puzzles are designed in a way that both players actually have to work together. For example in some puzzles one player has to throw or catch the other player. This is not the type of game where one player can do everything while the other player just tags along for the ride. The game does a good job using physical barriers that force one player to clear the path for the other player who will then have to clear the path for the other player. This back and forth does a good job keeping both players engaged in the game.

The most interesting mechanic in Shift Happens is the shifting mass mechanic. Except for the early levels, both characters share the same mass so one character has to be small while the other is large. The large character can throw the other character, push heavy blocks, survive in shallow water, and activate weight based triggers. The small character can jump higher/farther, can move under small barriers and can be launched by the other player. Shift Happens does a pretty good job balancing out both characters so that both players will feel important no matter which size they currently are. Shift Happens also forces players into regularly shifting between the two forms since that is the only way to get past some of the obstacles.

This shifting mass mechanic has a lot of potential in my opinion. The game has already found some interesting uses for the mechanic and I am interested in seeing what else the developers can come up with. Due to being the namesake of the game, this mechanic will be the deciding factor on how good the game can become. I think it is an interesting mechanic and could very well drive the entire game.

Despite being a better multiplayer game, I give the game credit for doing a good job making the cooperative mechanic work as a single player experience. The game makes it really easy to switch between characters (just push the right analog stick towards the non selected character). The puzzles for the single player levels are similar but also different than the multiplayer levels. The multiplayer levels deal more with timing and cooperation since both characters can move at the same time. The single player levels are more logical where you need to spend more effort figuring out how to use the shifting mass mechanics to solve the puzzles. While I still preferred the multiplayer levels, I had more fun with the single player levels than I was expecting.

Current State

Except for about seven or so levels that were added in the last two days, I have played through all of the single and multiplayer levels. It took me just under two hours to complete all but these very recently added levels (these levels are currently work in progress). Factoring in how long the other levels took, I would say that completing all of the levels will take around 2.5 hours. I am guessing that quite a few more levels will be added to the game as it is developed further which should extend the level quite a bit. Also since I am not really into collectibles, people who enjoy gathering collectibles could get a decent amount more time out of the game in its’ current state.

One issue I do have with the game at this stage is the difficulty. I found the game to be kind of easy. While some of the puzzles are clever and do a good job utilizing the game’s mechanics, they aren’t that hard to figure out at this point. I think in all of the levels I played there was only a couple instances where I didn’t almost instantly figure out what had to be done in order to solve the puzzle. The more difficult puzzles didn’t take that long to solve either. At this stage I would classify the game as easy or easy-medium. I do play a lot of puzzle platformers though so that might be part of the reason why I found the game to be pretty easy.

While playing the game I did encounter some frame rate issues when playing at the 1920X1080 resolution setting. I was getting less than 20 frames per second which really affected the game and made it kind of unplayable. My computer does meet all of the recommended computer system requirements. After reducing the resolution I did reach an acceptable frame rate. Being an early access game these issues will probably resolve themselves in future updates.

Another small issue my brother and I encountered while playing the game was that there are some issues with the catching mechanics in the game. There seems to be kind of a delay between pressing the button and trying to catch something. At this stage it seems like you need to press the button considerably earlier than you would expect in order to successfully catch the item.

Other Tidbits

  • Maybe it is just me but the larger character really reminds me of Betamax from Big Hero 6.
  • While waiting for the next level to load my brother and I developed a little game where we tried to grab the other players character. We would constantly shift between the two sizes running around the elevator hoping to catch the other player. While this little game was really stupid, it made the loading times go by quicker.

Should I Be Interested In The Game?

If you don’t like puzzle platformers or cooperative games, you probably won’t like Shift Happens. While the game does some new things, it probably won’t be able to change any people’s minds about the genre.

If you do like puzzle platformers Shift Happens is the type of game that I would keep an eye on especially if you like cooperative puzzle platformers. The game has some interesting puzzle mechanics especially the shared mass mechanic. Some of the puzzles are creatively designed which shows that the game could have some really good puzzles in the final version of the game. At this point the game is kind of short (around 2.5 hours) and easy but that is kind of expected for an early access puzzle platformer. I am guessing that the developers will be adding many more levels since they have already added a couple levels since the last time I played the game.

Currently Shift Happens retails at $13.99. If you like cooperative puzzle platformers, I think you should take a look at Shift Happens. Shift Happens was released today (September 9th, 2015) on Steam Early Access.