Puzzle games have been ever prominent on consoles, and never more so than right now. Players are wanting more and more of a challenge from their games, and developers are trying to keep up. Rock Pocket Games have answered the call with a new puzzler named Shiftlings
, where you'll be taking control of two shift workers traveling the galaxy fixing problems, whilst being watched by the universe on a reality show. Purple Plop and Green Goop, as they are affectionately known, have a slight obstacle to overcome though. After drinking the fizziest cola in the world, the fizz causes one of them to puff out like a balloon, and the connecting pipe between the two means the air has nowhere to go but to the other alien. You must use this to your advantage to help the aliens manoeuvre through the obstacle filled levels, fix the problem and make a break for the exit.
Zookad, your lovable and insulting presenter
You thrown straight into the game with little more than an introduction to the first world by Zookad, the TV show's host and your half kind/half critical narrator. The controls for the game are simple enough that an official tutorial level isn't needed- you can change character, you can "shift" (change which alien is blown up), you can jump, and that's about it. Even with just a couple of buttons to learn, you might very well find yourself pressing the shift button instead of the swap, causing you to fall off a platform or even to your death. While this got more than a little infuriating early on, you'll memorise the buttons eventually, and that's when the fun begins.
There are five worlds for you to conquer with your alien friends, containing ten main levels and one bonus level in each. While this on its own is more than enough to keep you busy, you'll be playing each level at least twice for the time attack achievement
and also to hunt for the three cola bottles hidden around each of the main levels. All of the cola bottles are fairly difficult to get, but some will require more brain power than others, which adds a good challenge to already difficult levels. Whilst the early levels are not so difficult that you will get stuck, the later levels will have you pondering certain bits for a good time before figuring out the route to the exit or to the fixing area. It is easy to go the wrong way, and it is possible to spend more time backtracking when you end up at the exit before even completing the level's objective, but the level's are short enough that this won't cause you too much hassle.
You'll be searching high and low for those shining bottles of cola
While there is a steep learning curve to the game (especially the later levels), the basic puzzles do not change but do require more thought to figure out. Where in a first world level you may simply have to bounce on your blown up buddy's head to reach a platform, a later level may have you bouncing up then shifting and pulling your alien up to reach the platform then shifting to pull the second alien up behind you. Bouncing on your friend helps you get to a lot of out of reach places, but the fact that you have to jump from higher up and not the same level to be able to bounce adds another level of difficulty.
Your different sizes help you in other ways, too. Whilst your larger, blown up alien will be able to press buttons to open doors and turn on gravity beams, your smaller alien will be able to pull levers to move platforms and fit through little gaps. What the game does well is let you see the path fairly easy, but then presenting you with the problem of how exactly to get through it. Unfortunately if you don't get through it correctly, there are plenty of ways for your poor aliens to meet their end. Whether it's severing their connecting cord, singeing them on lasers or burning them in flames, you'll be encountering plenty of deaths along the way (especially when other robot enemies are introduced). Luckily, you'll be met with a funny comment or insult at every death to keep you smiling right the way back to the respawn. Also, conveniently placed checkpoints in levels mean you won't be replaying the whole mission again when you die, but for these checkpoints to register, both of your shiftlings must pass through them. These help as a respite to the slighter longer levels, especially if you have just struggled your way past a multitude of obstacles and don't fancy trying again anytime soon.
The levels and obstacles get harder and more complex
The game itself is beautiful and bright, and the levels are designed really well. The colours of the aliens and their surroundings keep your eyes entertained, and there's also something going on in the background related to your objective, such as an out of control monster stomping about the screen. If you want a better look, you can zoom out to get a big picture view of the level. Not only does this let you admire the level itself, you can also plan your route and scope out the collectibles before you head off in the wrong direction. The music also suits Shiftlings
perfectly and sounds as if it has been plucked right of a space based sci-fi TV show, with all the typical whirs and woos you'd be expecting to hear.
is more than capable of being played on solo, there is also the option of co-op, both online and local, should you choose to take it. The online co-op is fun but difficult, with no in-game way to communicate you may find you both shifting continuously to get past an obstacle because neither of you know which one should be taking the lead. You can choose an online game to join, or simply join a random one, which the other player can choose to accept or deny the invite to. Unfortunately, in the early days of trying, it seems most players were reluctant to let a random player into their game, but with another co-operative player and a headset, there are hours of fun (and frustration) to be had here (the same applies with a fellow gamer at your side for local co-op).
Should I be up there or should you be down here?
In terms of the game's achievements, there's a fairly light total of 29. Only a few will come with natural, basic gameplay, such as shifting for the first time
, or completing a world
. There are some challenging achievements though, where levels must be completed with only a few jumps
and the time attack mode offers even more challenge
. The variety in achievements means you will be going back through levels a least a few times to find all the collectibles and get as quick of a time as possible, but this is only a good thing as it adds to the total overall replayability of the game. There's also the standard complete all other achievements achievement
, sitting at a nice 100G, so the completionists among you will be wanting to play, collect and experience everything the game has to offer.
If you are a fan of puzzle games, then Shiftlings
is definitely worthy of a purchase. At £13.99, you are getting over 50 levels to explore, and that will be more than worth your money if you aim to complete the game and all of its achievements. What Shiftlings
brings to the Xbox One is a puzzler that is both fun and funny all the way through, with levels that can accommodate both casual and hardcore puzzle gamers. So take a chance on a couple of aliens, I doubt you'll be disappointed.
- Nice, bright, colourful puzzler
- No in game co-op communication
The reviewer spent approximately eight hours shifting, fixing robots, exploring space and, more often than not, dying a horrible, painful death. This unlocked 14 of the games 29 achievements. An Xbox One digital copy of the game was provided by the developer for the purpose of this review.