Shiftlings, from Rock Pocket Games, is an interesting take on the traditional left-and-right platformer, where you take control of two alien twins; one green and the other red. The twins can be controlled either by a single player or via cooperative tandem.
In this game, the object is to get from the beginning point on a map to some sort of exfiltration spot. As you progress, you’ll navigate tight crawl spaces and precarious jumps, as well as activate mechanical contraptions along the way.
In addition to the game’s arcade-like play, Shiftlings also follows a great story. It seems that one of the twins has had a bit too much to drink…cola, that is…and is very gassy. As a result, he’s blown up like a balloon, while the other twin has not done so. The smaller of the two therefore can get through crawl spaces very easily, as well as jump and activate switches as needed. The larger twin is useful for stepping on floor plates and providing a “jump point”; a trampoline-like effect where the smaller twin bounces on top of his larger brother to reach higher spots on the map. Along the way, be sure to look for floating cola bottles. You can opt to collect these to earn more points, as well as ubiquitous Steam achievements! The best part of the game for me is that you can transfer the gas at any time from one twin to the other, using the umbilical cord that constantly tethers the two. The idea is to transfer the gas at opportune moments, depending on where each twin is currently standing; a truly cooperative effort. While this operation can be done single-player, it’s a lot more fun with a partner.
Is Shiftlings worth it? Absolutely Yes. The game’s graphics are incredible. In fact, sometimes they’re so good that it’s hard to tell the difference between the background and the game map itself. The platforming action is also very smooth, and I was able to learn the moves in short order. As the story continues, so does the excellent writing. At times I was laughing so much that I nearly dropped the controller. This actually brings up a serious point. Although you can play with either a keyboard/mouse or controller, you’ll most likely find the latter easier to use. My only suggestion would be to add a mechanic where you can transfer the gas equally between the twins. Perhaps a giant balance scale requiring both characters to be of equal weight to level out. This and future suggestions are of course purely inspirational; not correctional!
If you have a penchant for this type of gameplay, the gas-filled brothers will quickly become your go-to sidekicks.
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