Puzzle games often take one game mechanic and run with it and those that are the most enjoyable are the ones that make you feel like you are a genius for solving their riddles. This is exactly the feeling I get from Shift Quantum, the latest in the Shift series which is out now on all the major consoles and PC.
You can play as a man trapped inside his memories and the world is a negative of black and white. You need to reach the exit door on each level to pass but you won’t be able to just traverse there – you’ll need to shift perspective. Shifting inverts the colours and flips the entire level 180% degrees onto its head. What was the floor is now the ceiling – but that may not be there at all if the colours have changed too. It sounds more confusing in text than it does seeing it in action and one of Shift Quantum’s strengths is how the difficult curve introduces new permutations at a constant rate but never without you learning about them and their tricks first before bringing something else in. This is a vital part of the enjoyment of the game. Thankfully your characters handling, whilst a bit slow at times is steady as a rock so you can work out how you’ll be flying around with precision.
Once you’ve got shifting under your belt and learnt to not fall off the level of into spikes you’ll soon have portals, wind blowers, gravity shifters, pullies, switches, movable blocks – all kinds will get involved to make levels really quite complicated. A story in the background does keep things interesting from that standpoint but it doesn’t take centre stage – it knows the puzzles themselves are the players’ driver and when the level design is as good as Shift Quantum’s is – that’s just fine. Often levels have only one main route to complete them but because its a physics shifting experience, you’ll find that sometimes there’s actually some variation to be had. The only minor quibble I have is that in a black and white world, the background is mostly grey and sometimes it looks a bit drab to look at but it is such a minor poke at what is a superb game, it’s not a factor at all.
Outside of the main story campaign and collecting glitches in most of the levels, which are like prizes for finding the longest, hardest route to complete a level, is the level editor and online level sharing facility. From the outset you have access to all the traps to build levels and whilst it’s not teeming with levels at all, the tagging system is useful because you can focus on levels that are artistic for example and you’ll see someones made a level as a toad or the American flag for you to traverse. The tools to build levels are quite good, but you will absolutely need to understand the game mechanics otherwise you’ll be building really simple toot. Levels are rated on completion so you can curate a best of and favourite them.
What I feel about Shift Quantum on the PS4 is what I feel about Kula World on the PS1. They don't need fancy graphics to get you invested - they are all about the gameplay and for this guy - that is the perfect antidote to make my brain to turn to mush!
Great gameplay mechanics.
Perfectly judged difficulty curve to keep you entertained.
Level editor is well put together.
Has that one more go feel all classics have.
Most graphics are on the grey scale and the animations of your character are limited.
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