PAX East 2017 - Mr. Shifty Preview

When I saw Mr. Shifty at the tinyBuild booth at PAX South a couple months ago, it was immediately recognizable for its very strong Hotline Miami influence. I didn’t actually play it there but it was clear as day, matching the top-down aesthetic and fast-paced action and combat.

When it was announced as part of the Nindies event for the Nintendo Switch a few weeks back, it struck me as an odd title for the typically family-friendly Nintendo. So I decided to seek it out at PAX East. This time around, I stood and watched someone else play it for a while, thinking that would be enough. But one of my new friends from the event, Dustin Furman, insisted that it was an experience that needed to be felt to be fully appreciated.

So as the show floor was just about to close on Sunday, I made my way back over to the booth and managed to hop on a station to finish out the event. And it is indeed the same kind of Hotline Miami gameplay. You play as the titular character with the ability to teleport short distances. The power is limited though with your character only able to teleport up to five times in rapid succession (with the each teleportation recharging on a timer).

This power seems to replace the Hotline Miami feature of picking up firearms. Mr. Shifty seems to be a “no guns” kind of hero, relying on his teleportation powers and melee or throwing weapons. A lot of breakable elements of the environment can reveal such weapons. I found grabbing a trident off a statue and hurling it through a line of enemies particularly satisfying before popping around the rest of an area for a bit of clean up.

There was also a special move that slowed time (though I’m not quite sure what triggered it). Occasionally, I would be teleporting around and the fast-paced action would slow (with the world changing colors a bit) allowing for just the slightest extra bit of time to map out a plan of attack. And this is another much-needed element to balance the game. Because while it might seem that being able to teleport breaks what makes Hotline Miami special, the levels in Mr. Shifty are much larger with enemy counts vastly more overwhelming. Where Hotline Miami emphasizes taking out enemies one by one, Mr. Shifty will put you up against a half dozen guys at once that need to be taken out all at the same time. So it feels pretty badass to take out three with a lead pipe, teleport around and knock out two, before times slows giving you the window to eliminate the final target.

Mr. Shifty is launching on the Nintendo Switch and PC in April.