I was drawn to Shifter! because it’s a puzzle platformer. It’s one of my favorite genres, which is grossly apparent whenever I open Steam and see my recommended games. Puzzlers. While this is my aesthetic it also means I can be quite critical. I approach a game like Shifter! and am looking for a reason to stay. Fortunately, it presents itself immediately: Shifter!’s gameplay—rearranging the level itself to open the exit so our cute, blob-shaped protagonist can continue on his journey. Typically puzzlers involve creating elements in a world (Portal) or navigating through a world, perhaps using a special power (Braid). But Shifter! is about manipulating the physical world itself.
Shifter! is a single screen puzzler, developed by Artem Cheranev, consisting of 24 Levels. The controls are simple and touch-screen intuitive. Using your index finger and thumb, the “zoom-in” motion (used on smart phones/tablets) divides the level into several rectangular pieces. At this point, you may rearrange the level but you can only move the piece your character is in (it remains in full-color as the others become taupe). This makes the game challenging and gives purpose to the walking mechanic—done easily by tapping left or right on the screen.
The first few levels serve as built-in tutorials: extremely simple, with a silhouetted hand showing you the controls on screen. Like all games that include tutorial levels, Shifter! starts off slow. But don’t fret, things pick up for a memorable challenge. Much to my joy, Shifter! becomes increasingly difficult as the levels become more complex. The first five or six levels introduce you to the basic elements you’ll encounter: spikes that kill you, ladders to climb, and crates used to hold down power switches for the door. As the levels increase in difficulty, you are presented with the same elements you’ve previously encountered but now you’re forced to think of them in a new way—a hallmark of any well organized level sequence.
I was pleased to see new elements added as the game continued, building on what’s been established. As I continued playing I was greeted with a gold piece I needed for the door, gaps between level pieces, an electric beam bridge, a moving enemy, and more. The game holds my attention and presents a non-frustrating challenge (a rare feat). Like with many mobile games, Shifter! does not have a story-line. I don’t miss it as much as with other games but, personally, I believe every game could benefit from a plot. The levels take longer to complete as they get harder but still remain short. When it comes to completion, I’m a slow gamer and still managed to beat Level 13 in about 6 minutes (including some deaths). Still, I have no complaints about the difficulty/time-length; I only wish there were more levels because this game is a joy.
Once again, the only real drawbacks are the brevity and difficulty (I can see some seasoned puzzle gamers finding it too easy). But they’re wrong! And at $0.99 with no in-app purchases or ads, this one’s a no-brainer. Download Shifter! today. Personally, I can’t wait for what Artem Cheranev does next.