J.P. expresses his shifting opinions on this 3DS puzzle platformer.
Let me get this out of the way first: if you think Shifting World isn’t worthy of a full retail release because of its genre, its look or the fact that it’s an extension of an iPhone game, you’re mistaken. I went into the game with a similar attitude, but found the game justifies its place on a shelf.
Shifting World is a puzzle platformer in which you make your way to a goal through simple manipulation of the game’s world of black and white, a trait used to create numerous positional puzzles. You might start out walking on a black part of the level and reach a dead end, but with a tap of a shoulder button you can flip the world over, allowing you to walk on the white area you were previously standing in and opening up a path to progress further into the level.
That’s Shifting World’s core mechanic, but it’s complemented by others. The 3D presentation of the game isn’t just for show; you’ll find yourself jumping through portals in the walls to better set up your movement, and later in the game you’ll be able to flatten the world, making the presentation more like that of the game’s purely 2D predecessors and opening up paths that weren’t possible in the 3D view. Levels also include switches that make blocks appear or disappear, and skillful manipulation of them is vital.
As I mentioned, Shifting World features a lot of content. The adventure mode has seven worlds that slowly ramp up in difficulty and introduce new mechanics, and the game also includes a series of time attack levels that unlock with each level you beat in the adventure. While I enjoy the adventure mode, the time attack levels are my favorite part of the game. The experience is reminiscent of trying to beat the par times in Mighty Switch Force, except these levels aren’t the same as those you play through to unlock them, so you need to figure out how to beat them while racing against the clock.
Shifting World’s most significant problem stems from the fact that the map of the level on the touch screen is basically useless. Unlike the game’s predecessors, in which levels generally only took up one screen, Shifting World’s levels are much larger, and your view is more zoomed in, meaning you’re only seeing a relatively small part of the level at a time on the top screen. The designers wisely included a map of the whole level on the bottom screen, but thanks to the screen’s smaller size and relatively low resolution, details are very difficult to make out.
The problems with the map make it hard to discern your position when you get lost, which will happen from time to time. The biggest issue this creates, though is that many levels feature spikes, which instantly kill you and return you to the beginning of the level, and thanks to the narrow view and poorly designed map there were quite a few times when I died on spikes I had no way of knowing were there.
Despite the frustration caused by these problems, I really enjoyed this game. I’ll continue to play it, because even though I know at least a couple times an hour I’m going to want to throw my 3DS through the nearest wall, when that’s not happening Shifting World is a great little puzzle platformer with a lot of interesting wrinkles.