Shift Quantum Review

By Rebecca Smith, 11 months ago
Ten years ago in 2008, Antony Lavelle's Shift franchise was introduced to gamers. Over the following 15 months, four of the flash games would make an appearance, all of which were well received by critics. Two years later, developer Fishing Cactus took up the reins for the franchise with Shift Extended for PlayStation Minis in 2011, followed by another title for Nintendo 3DS released a year later. It's taken a gap of six years for a new instalment in the franchise and it's the first to come to Xbox One. Shift Quantum keeps the same gameplay premise of the titles that preceded it, yet it feels much more than a flash game on a big screen.

28/05/2018 - Carousel

You're greeted by Mary, and as her automated voice will tell you, it is her pleasure to register you with Axon Vertigo. The company aims to deliver absolute happiness to absolutely everyone, absolutely free. What could go wrong? Axon Vertigo is the leading authority in cerebral contentedness programming, and as subject 32763, you've put your trust in this questionable rhetoric to enter Shift Quantum, their game application that stimulates the brain through a series of puzzles. The only way you'll get back control of your brain is to solve all of the 117 puzzles the game will throw at you.

Your avatar is a man in a black trench coat and sunglasses, but his identity is unknown. In the background of the simulation is a futuristic utopia with tall skyscrapers and flying cars. Advertising placards, including those that ape popular social media outlets, appear frequently but are not obnoxious. It's a world to which you may wish to belong, but this is something of which you can only dream because your reality is a monochromatic blocky world instead. Each level begins with a different layout of black cubes that stand out clearly against the bustling background. All you need to do is get from your spawn point to the clearly marked exit door, but this is often easier said than done.

Good luckGood luck

To reach that door, you'll need to make use of the game's Shift mechanic. Upon pressing B, the world rotates 180o. Where there was empty space is now occupied with white blocks. Where the black blocks existed before is now empty space. Initially the puzzles are easy, because just using a combination of these two dimensions and none-too-challenging platforming will get you through the level. There is no timer and no quick reactions are needed. As much time as necessary can be taken to think things through at your own pace. Then the game starts throwing gameplay twists at you, as well as traps like spikes and falling blocks, and things get a bit more complicated.

As you work your way through the levels, new gameplay mechanics are introduced. There are blocks you can move, those that switch the direction of gravity, fans that propel you in different directions, buttons that change the level layout, and those that allow you to dig your way through the level. Every new mechanic is introduced at a gradual pace, giving ample time to get used to its intricacies before a new challenge appears. Each adds nothing more than a bit of a twist to the level on their own, but together they can turn the level into a seemingly mindbending challenge. None of the level's solutions are overcomplicated; if anything, whenever you get stuck you're likely to find you're overthinking the solution. However, trial and error can become a valid way of working things out and the reset button easily allows things to be set back to their original layout if you find you've gone wrong.

Who is she?Who is she?

Aside from that, the only real confusion is left for the game's potential story. Soon into the game, you meet a mysterious young girl who drops a yellow scarf. It's the only flash of colour you'll ever see in this world, and its significance is a mystery, as is the identity of the girl and her relationship with your avatar. Generally the gameplay can't be faulted, although there are the occasional levels that are so big that it's impossible to pan the camera around far enough to see the objectives. There are also instances where it's possible to fall through the map — it happened when walking back towards a fan after being propelled across the level, and also where a shift was allowed where it shouldn't have been possible.

There are some other Glitches in the game but these are harmless — they're the game's collectibles. These seem to serve no purpose other than to add a bit more of a challenge to the level for those who want it, as well as unlocking an achievement. If you complete all of the levels and collect all of the glitches yet still aren't satisfied, the game's simple level editor allows players to create their own levels and share them with the world. An active community can create an unending number of levels for players to try and this should offer plenty of extra entertainment after the game is done.

I shouldn't be hereI shouldn't be here

Finally, the game's achievements are a fair mix of those that are unmissable and those that require a bit of effort. There are ten unmissable story-related achievements, as well as six action-related achievements that are impossible to miss as they're related to using the different types of blocks. You'll need to die 100 times in a variety of ways, as well as collecting all of the Glitches, digging at least 100 blocks, and pushing blocks for a distance of over 100 blocks. Finally, there are a handful dedicated to the game's level creator. All of these should be achievable and the game has been completed by four people at the time of writing. In the interest of honesty, though, I have two broken achievements, one whose tracker is stuck at 97% and the other that just failed to unlock despite the requirements being met.

Check out our Best Xbox One Platformer Games Available in 2019 article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.

Summary

The roots of the Shift franchise may well lie in flash games but Shift Quantum brings the franchise to consoles in style. The game's Shift mechanic is easy to understand, but when different gameplay mechanics are introduced as the game goes on, it becomes a challenge to master. Players can do so at their own pace without the pressure of a timer, and the reset button makes it easy to start over if mistakes are made. None of the solutions are overcomplicated, although trial and error may be needed occasionally. Once the game is completed, players can then entertain themselves further with the level editor that allows creations to be shared worldwide. If you love puzzles, you should definitely give this title a spin.
4 / 5
Shift Quantum
Positives
  • Gameplay mechanics introduced gradually so you're never overwhelmed
  • Puzzles solved at your own pace without the pressure of a timer
  • Reset button makes it easy to start over if mistakes are made
  • Level editor allows endless creations
Negatives
  • Some levels are a bit too big
  • Can fall through the map occasionally
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent around 10 hours walking through far too many doors and collecting every glitch possible. She unlocked 30 of 32 achievements for 930 GS. It should have been all 32 achievements but Microsoft's achievement trackers had different ideas. An Xbox One version of the game was provided by the developer for the purpose of this review.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
Rebecca Smith
Written by Rebecca Smith
Rebecca is the Newshound Manager at TrueGaming Network. She has been contributing articles since 2010, especially those that involve intimidatingly long lists. When not writing news, she works in an independent game shop so that she can spend all day talking about games too. She'll occasionally go outside.