Developer: Fishing Cactus
Publisher: Red Panda Interactive
Review Context: I’m a big fan of puzzle games, with Portal 2 being one of my favorites. I’ve never played Shift by Armor Games, the flash game this is based on.
Date of Playthrough: May 30, 2018
PC Specs Game Played on:
OS: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Processor: Intel(R) Core(TM) i3 CPU 540 @ 3.07GHz
RAM: 8 GB
Video Card: GeForce GTX 950 2GB GDDR5 ACX 2.0 SC+
Disclosure: This review was based off of a review copy.
Shift Quantum, developed by Fishing Cactus, is a cyber-noir puzzle-platformer that really provides a unique puzzle solving experience. This is based on the flash game called Shift by Armor Games, but different developers. This isn’t your stereotypical puzzle-platformer, because it’s a puzzle game with sprinkled with platforming. As someone who enjoys puzzle games, it’s important for new puzzle games to make the puzzles interesting enough to not get bored, provide a certain level of difficulty, and also provide a unique conceptual touch to make it stand out.
Upon starting Shift Quantum, you are met with a female voice explaining the premise of the game. You are at Axon Vertigo, a world leading authority in cerebral programming, with the goal to improve your quality of life . You’ve been assigned to “Shift Quantum,” which will place your brain into “game mode,” and you are tasked to complete puzzles to stimulate your brain. Yes, it sounds like a weird premise, but you are soon dropped into a square shaped, black and white world, where you have you to get to the location that says “Exit.”
As soon as you are dropped into your first puzzle, the ‘Shift Quantum experience’ is officially underway! You are a movable character, just like in a platformer, and you have the ability to “shift” the colors between black and white. Each time a shift occurs your character can move on the white or the black depending on what color you’ve shifted to, and the level rotates and flips upside down. This means that once you’ve shifted to white, you can platform onto the white areas and vice versa. Besides shifting, moving your character around, jumping, climbing onto platforms, moving boxes around, and/or hitting switches will get you to the exit in most of the levels.
Don’t let the first levels of Shift Quantum fool you, as the levels get more complex as the game moves on. What the game does really well is introduce new elements one at a time, at a slow pace, so you understand them. Playing these newly introduced elements each time felt like being in a math class with new equations and followed by exercises to test them. Fishing Cactus absolutely nails picking exactly the right amount of puzzles after each new element is introduced before moving on to introduce the next new element. There is no easy way for guessing when every potential player has learned a new element, but this is also credit to how well the levels are designed.
Although most levels in Shift Quantum use the elements introduced in the beginning, for example the movable boxes that shift between black and white, a game like this really needs interesting puzzle design to keep the player interested. Most of the levels have a “collectible” that is usually a little harder to get than just reaching the exit. This adds another layer for the player to accomplish each time, but don’t worry if you don’t, as you can go back and replay the level another time to get it if you wish. The game also has traps like spikes, so watch out! If you do happen to land on the spikes the level restarts and you have to grab the collectible again if you already did.
As you progress through Shift Quantum, you will see a percentage of completion on the top right of your screen when you’re one the spider-web looking grid of levels. Everyone is different, but I didn’t really start to feel my brain get tugged until around forty-five to fifty percent. Wait until you reach cool elements like the activators that rotate the level in a certain direction, switches, fan blocks, and diggers, as these are fun elements to play with. No two levels felt the same to me, and the difficulty progression felt proper, with no levels making me feel like I wanted to break my controller or smash my keyboard. Sometimes it felt like there were peaks and valleys in difficulty, with some levels later in the game feeling easy followed by a challenging one.
I have zero complaints about the controls, as I played with a control and I recommend that. With a controller I was able to move around the levels quickly with ease. While completing puzzles, pushing or pulling blocks is probably the most challenging thing to with controls, so a controller is probably recommended. The PC version not only comes with Xbox controller support, but also Steam controller support. As you complete puzzles, you’ll be rocking out to the cool soundtrack that just pumps you up. I was really impressed with the soundtrack, and it’s another video game soundtrack that is good enough for possibly listening to outside of the game.
After you’ve finished the main game, don’t worry about a shortage of content because you can enjoy the community levels. Shift Quantum has a level editor, where levels can be shared across all platforms (PC, Playstation 4, and Nintendo Switch), with a special code given to each level. You can browse and sort community levels by various criteria to find the types of levels that you prefer. After playing a level you can rate it. I tried the level editor to just play around with it, and I found that it was a little easier using keyboard and mouse to create levels, as opposed to the controller. As of the writing of this review there weren’t that many community levels, so now is a perfect time to create and upload a level to get noticed. I plan on doing that soon.
It’s hard to come across fun and interesting puzzle games, but Shift Quantum manages to do what few puzzle games have been able to accomplish. Fishing Cactus put together a great engaging puzzle experience with cross-platform multiplayer to give the game extended life. Shift Quantum is easily my favorite puzzle game since Portal 2. If you are a puzzle gamer, you definitely need to give this game a shift.
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