We all are familiar with platform games, navigating up, over and around a series of obstacles to collect objects that open doors or portals and Shiftlings is no different in that sense. However add to this the interesting mechanics of flatulence and you have a slightly different take on the genre.
Shiftlings, developed by Rock Pocket follows the story of two alien janitors on a hidden camera reality show. The opening scene sets the mood when one of janitors finds a bottle of the fizziest drink in the universe and downs it in one. Now, I believe we have all done this at least once in our lifetime, and as expected the escaping gas causes him to balloon up in his suit. Now this is amusing in itself but because the janitor duo are attached to one another via an air supply hose this allows them to effectively pass the gas from one to the other. It’s good to share you know.
Now we are past the initial toilet humour, I can start to focus on the game – Shiftlings is an absolute stunning platformer that has visuals that you would expect to see in a Pixar or Disney movie. The levels are vibrant in colour and the detail is stunning, making you feel really immersed in the world you are playing. Your main task when controlling the two gassy janitors is to guide them through a series of maps filled with levers, ramps, moving parts and all sorts of obstacles. But don’t be fooled with the easiest routes, they aren’t always the right ones, so you will need to use some brain power to solve the problems barring your way. So just how do you go about guiding the gassy duo through the game?
Shiftlings as a single player game is not bad, the controls can be a little frustrating as you constantly have to press B to switch from one janitor to the other, navigating your way through the maps and hitting Y to pass gas, literally. In mad moments of confusion I found myself hitting the wrong button, causing the wrong janitor to swell up like a balloon, and the other dropping off a ledge forcing me to start again – needless to say, at some points I was screaming at my TV!
Get past that and you have a game that is enjoyable to play and has some clever dynamics to help your bumbling Janitors through the game. For example if you want to jump up to a higher ledge you normally couldn’t reach, why not jump on to your inflated friend. This will catapult you higher than you could reach by yourself – but timing is key – cleverly, you can then pull your partner up to the ledge simply by re-inflate the opposite janitor and drag him up and over ledges and platforms like a counterweight.
Now where this game does come into its own is the two player co-op. This can go either one of two ways, you can work really well together as a team and accomplish many levels by bouncing and dragging each other through the levels or, as it went with me, you just end up walking in different directions, shouting and eventually not talking to one another. This game will challenge even the strongest of friendships.
So is there enough to keep you from getting bored? Well apart from the amazing eye candy in terms of graphics and cut scenes, you are also accompanied by some amusing stories and one-liners from your reality host. Add to this a few burps, bangs and farts as you navigate through the levels and a soundtrack that could have come from a ToeJam and Earl game, you have a really nice game. With 50 levels ranged over five planets, there is enough to keep even the most fanatical platformer amused, if not just for the reason to see who your real friends are when it comes to co-op.
I would definitely recommend this to keen platform fans and for you non-sidescrolling platform fanatics, give it a go as you might find yourself strangely drawn in, if not by the game then by the weirdly funny toilet humour.
Thanks to Xbox for supplying TiX with a download code
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