Sunday, November 02, 2008


If you've read my reviews of SHIFT (here) and SHIFT 2 (here), you know that I would eagerly anticipate the arrival of SHIFT 3. So when I first saw it appear on Armor Games, I was delighted. But I wanted to wait for it to appear on Kongregate, so I could get all of the badges in one place. So I waited. And waited. And waited. I expected I'd have to wait a couple of weeks; instead, it took several months for the game to arrive on Kongregate. Not surprisingly, that kind of wait tends to take the excitement out of a game. It's certainly not the game's fault -- it delivers pretty much exactly what you'd want from a sequel. There are a few interesting improvements to the game, but the core gameplay experience remains unchanged -- mostly it's just more of what you've come to love.

Just to recap for those of you too uninterested to play the first two and too lazy to read my reviews, SHIFT 3 is a pretty straightforward platformer -- your goal is to reach the exit door in a level by jumping on blocks and avoiding spikes. Keys will move barriers around, hopefully to your benefit, and lightbulbs remove checked squares that impede your progress. At the beginning of the game, you are a black figure standing on a white background. However, by pressing Shift, you can shift into the black block you're standing on and become a white figure on a black background. This opens up all sorts of creative puzzle options. There also exist buttons which can rotate the screen 180 degrees (or even 90 degrees) without the need to shift.

Anyway, the biggest change in SHIFT 3 is that the game is no longer completely linear; you don't just do one room after another until you reach the end. Rather, some rooms have multiple exits, and you'll often need to backtrack to a previously-visited room. Keys can also affect barriers in other rooms, meaning that you'll often move to another room, grab a key, and then return to your previous room and take advantage of the change you've just effected. While this definitely adds an interesting new feature, the designer thankfully does not go overboard; the overall layout is not too complicated, and the game thoughtfully provides a map to help you navigate your way through.

As in SHIFT 2, there are two possible endings; to get the better of the two, you need to collect various newspaper clippings strewn throughout the game. These are kind of an effort to give the game a Portal-like hint of a backstory, but there's not really enough to make the plot terribly interesting. These usually require finding various secret doors, but the game isn't too cruel about hiding these -- generally, their presence is pretty well indicated, so you just need to pay attention when looking around to find them. Unfortunately, because what you need to get the good ending is just a series of numbers, it's easy for people to get the good ending without doing any of the work, which I naturally disapprove of.

In addition to the main adventure mode, SHIFT 3 also offers three "player packs", collections of six levels from various sources to give a quick "classic SHIFT" experience. These are quite short, and range in difficulty from quite easy to moderately head-scratching. They're a nice little addition to the main game, but, being only six levels, they're not going to take you too long to get through. The game also has a wide variety of achievements, like SHIFT 2, although it seems to have embraced the annoying trend of not actually telling you how to get the achievements. What is the purpose of this?! All it does is drive people to FAQs. Fortunately, I was able to figure out how to get all of the achievements by myself without too much difficulty, since most of them are pretty sensibly named; still, it's a needless irritation.

The graphics are the same as in the first two; the music has been changed again, although when you play the player packs, you get the original SHIFT music, which I think is still my favorite of the three. The game also includes a level editor, which is a nice addition to the game content. Thankfully, despite being an Armor Games product, the Kongregate version of SHIFT 3 isn't crippled in any way, which is a relief.

Overall, SHIFT 3 is a fun experience. It's not going to offer much you haven't already seen if you've played the first two, but like its two predecessors, it's good, well-designed, entertaining fun which doesn't overstay its welcome.

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