When it comes to space adventures, you get what you pay for.
It's amazing what a simple soft drink can do. Rock Pocket Games’ debut console effort and the first game published by Activision’s revived Sierra brand for Nintendo consoles is Shiftlings, a game of using weight transferringing to try and solve puzzles. It's a good first attempt, but it could use some additional anti-frustration features.
The game has a very fun story setup – two alien workers tethered to each other are working on a planet as part of an intergalactic reality show when one of them drinks a Black Hola Cola, the most gaseous soft drink in the known universe. The tether allows for the gas to be passed back and forth, and your aliens are sent on various missions to try and correct various issues on each of the five planets you explore. There are extra modes such as time attack that are unlocked if you find enough of the Black Hola Colas in a world, but the fifty levels are a large part of the game and they work quite well. Off-TV play is available, as well as a local co-op mode, but online would have been a nice addition.
If you're going to do a mock reality show, the commentary has to be good, and for the most part it is – there just isn't enough of it. I found that I was turning the commentator off in portions at about world 4, because he wasn't giving any new material – though the bigger laughs came with the explanation of what each level's storyline is. There's a different reason for why you're going to activate a terminal in every level, and there are some really good send-ups of popular culture included, especially on “Earth 2.0”. (The studio admitted to being huge Firefly fans, so look for plenty of those references in the Western levels.) The graphics stand out with a lot of beautiful landscapes and areas, but even at max volume the music is very soft and the sound effects/commentary definitely take priority.
As with any puzzle game, a lot of the challenge comes down to positioning of the characters. There are several jumps in the game that have to be pixel-perfect to nail, especially if you're trying to find the three hidden items in every level. There are several levels where I was one jump away from getting the last item and missing in a way that I needed to return to a checkpoint, and the only way to do that is suicide. My biggest wish for this game is that there was either a “Restart at checkpoint” option in the pause menu – you can restart, but you lose all progress – or a suicide button, where the commentator can snark while you jump back to the last checkpoint. Some of the timing will drive completionists crazy as well, as there's more than one time where you'll have to time a jump, a switch of the weight to another character, and a second switch just right to find a hidden object.
Shiftlings is a solid yet unspectacular first effort from a rookie developer, though I do hope it's not the last we see from Sierra. If you can put aside the obsession with finding everything in a level, there's a pretty fun game here – just be ready to fiddle with the sound options.