Shift DX, a new puzzle platformer for the 3DS based on a series by flash game publisher Armor Games, doesn’t make a fantastic first impression. In fact, it looks like something that might’ve been packed in with Windows 3.1 (Chip’s Challenge, anyone?). I know this makes me sound like a jerk, but I feel like it needs to be addressed, because I’ve heard this complaint from a few people when I’ve mentioned the game to them. The truth is, while I will always appreciate great art direction, it doesn’t really matter what a game looks like if it plays well. And Shift DX plays very well indeed.
The concept is straightforward in theory: all you have to do is reach the door at the end of each of 100+ black-and-white stages, pressing R to “shift” your character into the black space if you’re unable to progress through the white. But, like all good puzzle games, it’s easier said than done. Shifting into the negative space also reverses gravity, and the game quickly introduces other little gimmicks throughout its main campaign as well: arrows that shift gravity in the direction they’re pointing, keys that rotate platforms into stair-step shapes, spikes, etc. When the game throws all of these obstacles at you at once—and it does this a lot—each new stage can feel overwhelming at first. But Shift DX has such a smooth difficulty curve that you quickly shake that notion. “It’s okay,” you realize. “I’ve got this.”
As I said, the game’s graphics are underwhelming, and in a medium that’s so predominantly visual in nature, Shift DX has to find other ways to reward players for making it through each stage. I’m not the kind of player who necessarily figures out the solution to a complex puzzle upon first glance, so when I reach a door in Shift DX, it feels good. And that’s enough for me. But Shift DX rewards players in other ways, as well. From its sardonic, Portal-inspired humor, to its various unlockable extras—a challenge mode that requires players to complete each stage in a certain number of shifts and jumps, a level editor, and a bevy of skins that alter the look of the game (and even let you play as beloved characters from other indie games)—there’s plenty to keep players coming back.
I haven’t had an infinite bounty of time for games lately, but when I have a few minutes, I find myself reaching for my 3DS and Shift DX. It’s the kind of game where “just one more puzzle” turns into “just two more,” and then “okay, just a couple more and I’ll turn it off.” Playing the game is a reward in itself, and as a bonus, it’s keeping my brain sharp. I don’t need much more than that.
Invisible Gamer’s review of Shift DX is based on a download code provided to us by the publisher, Choice Provisions.