Developer: Fishing Cactus
Publisher: Red Panda Interactive
Release Date: 29 May 2018
Price: $19.99 / £15.99
Reviewed by Josh Brant
Shift Quantum is the type of puzzle game we love to see on Nintendo Switch. It does not look compelling or unique at first, but once you really discover all the gameplay mechanics present in developer Fishing Cactus’ title, you will be pleasantly surprised. Clever puzzle design and some interesting story sequences help Shift Quantum really stand-out from an oversaturated genre.
Plugging In, Matrix Style
Upon first starting Shift Quantum you are given some choices from a few terms and conditions pages for a interactive system called Axion Vertigo. This friendly female AI assures you complete bliss when you take ‘the shift’ into this alternate dimension, away from the dystopian outside world. From there, you will be navigating over 100 levels trying to make your way from the entrance to the exit.
Your character will be able to jump and grab ledges to pull up on, but physically that’s about all he can do. The meat of the gameplay comes in with the unique shift mechanic, which allows you to shift through the floor and switch back and forth between the colours black and white. There are negative and positive versions of the world and in the negative everything is inverted and this opens up new traversal possibilities for your character.
Shifting the Perspective
As you make your way through each stage, there's more and more obstacles that crop up. From spikes and disappearing walls to moveable blocks, these gameplay mechanics are all introduced appropriately, offering challenge without ever becoming overly frustrating. In the latter stages, there's wind blocks that can blow you backwards, rotator blocks, and special digger blocks that can destroy all platforms of the same colour. All these systems combine to offer innovative puzzles that really put your skills to the test.
While Shift Quantum adopts a minimalist graphical style, with a black and white greyscale aesthetic, it is surprisingly successful at fleshing out this gritty cyberpunk world, looking great in both docked and handheld mode. The background displays a detailed dystopian world, where flying cars whirl by and the harsh weather conditions spray against the simple environment you inhabit.
The soundtrack successfully blends ambient electronica undertones courtesy of composers Volkor X and Simon Felix, allowing both to flourish in a tug-of-war-like swelling of crescendos and pulsing beats that truly bring out the best of each composer.
Quantum Puzzle Design
There are two modes in Shift Quantum: the campaign based on developer stages, and community-designed levels. As stated before, the campaign features over 100 puzzles to navigate, and almost all the levels feature a hidden collectable that make attaining a 100% further challenging still.
The story, while immediately engaging, did fizzle out the further I made it through the campaign. Along the way, there seems to be a child-like girl you are meant to find in the Axion Vertigo, but it’s never really explained in the narrative, even though she helps you as much as you help her. When trying to solve some of the puzzles I would occasionally get stuck and have to restart. Thankfully this is done efficiently, but I wish there was a rewind feature instead of starting all the way back at the beginning of a stage.
Once you're finished with the main campaign, the level-creation mode allows you to build your own stages, as well as tackle others created by fellow players. I was never very good at creation, but it seems to give you everything you need in order to craft a perfect level. Once the community opens up and embraces these creative tools, there'll be no end to the challenges available.
Shift Quantum is one of the best puzzle games I’ve played on the Switch, and I hope more people will discover it. While simple in design, there is surprising depth in the puzzle solving mechanics, and clever use of black and white colours give it a unique art style. The story was a little disappointing, but as far the core gameplay is concerned, it nails the one-more-go feeling. With a potentially limitless supply of puzzles to solve, Shift Quantum offers a fantastic and unique challenge for fans of the genre.
Pros & Cons
+ Tons of levels in campaign and user created
+ Great art and sound design
+ Clever puzzle gameplay mechanics
- Lackluster story
- Could use more modes