‘Shift Happens’ is definitely not a plot driven game. Essentially, you play simultaneously between two comical, jelly-like characters named Bismo and Plom, who like straight out of a superhero movie, got their abilities in an unfortunate accident. The objective of the game is to shift between each character to solve puzzles, avoid obstacles and platform your way through the many levels in the four distinct stages (The lab, Forest, Grotto and Canyon) and to eventual freedom.
The game is broken into two modes, solo and multiplayer. Solo play means you control both of these blobs on your own. You switch between controlling one at time, while also having control over their power to be bigger or smaller, however neither can be the same size at the same time. You are often required to master quite a few skills such as strategically throwing your partner and boxes, changing size mid-air and balancing out pressure platforms.
In this game, timing is everything and it can get tedious if your reactions aren’t super quick. Controlling my little blobby pals became finicky, especially if you were required to throw one, then mid-air change to the other character and resize him. Often or not my timing wasn’t quick enough, resulting in a spray of swearing being heard around my room as I had to trudge my character all the way back to the start, to begin again. In the rare moments, you do become stuck on a puzzle (because most are generally quite simple) ,there is little or no indication of what needs to be done, at times leaving me in the foetal position a frustrated, quivering mess mumbling to myself that ‘I am actually smart’.
Along the way, you can also collect all 75 coins, beat time trials or find and solve the what I call the elusive ‘Marshmallow’ cube challenge, in each level. Having these collectables were all well and good but I really had no urge or incentive to replay levels to collect them, and often just ran by them. The only collectible worth tackling was the cube, as it at times really required some thought and was a challenge to acquire.
Multiplayer Co-Op is very similar to the story mode gameplay wise, however with different obstacles to conquer. The real value you get from it though is the seer enjoyment you get playing with a friend. It was nice to communicate with someone physically in the same room as me, as we played. It brought back instant memories of my childhood, sitting crossed legged on the carpet with my best friend Lynette playing Mario Cart, laughing, berating and shoving each other, at every in-game decision. This mode has some enticement to collect coins because it was a competition to collect more than your partner. At times, it got down right brutal as you could trigger a size change in your friend at the wrong moment killing them, giving you the opportunity to steal their coins for yourself. Movement with two people playing has such a more natural flow than the solo mode, clearly showing the developers true motives was to invest much of its TLC into its Co-op play.
The environments lacked much creative thought and without the obstacles littered in the level, there isn’t much with great detail to look at. The blobs themselves though were quite adorable and memorable...despite being well.. gelatinous blobs.
Overall, this is a fairly decent, but often frustrating platformer, when playing by your lonesome. Playing with a group of people is where the true fun is. If you are completely uncoordinated like I am, you will need time to ‘get good’. This game encourages you to take the Co-op route, and to be honest it’s more enjoyable to play a game were communication was key, something lacking in most games.