Shift Jump – As We Play

Format – iOS (iPhone)

Judging from the AppStore screenshots, this looks like it’s going to be an Impossible Game/Super Hexagon style game. Genital-twisting difficulty but satisfying as hell to nail just right. Hopefully with a kickass soundtrack on top of it all. I’m hoping that prediction pays off because I do have a masochistic love for those types of games.

I’m also left with no option but to mention that the game company’s logo is a pug wearing an Iron Helmet out of Skyrim. 10/10. 5 Stars. A+. Logo of the Year.

ShiftJump - Dog

Oh, why, Shift Jump, why? You had such a promising logo, why would you do this? The controls are terribly imprecise, which you wouldn’t think possible on a touchscreen with only two control prompts.

You tap the screen to jump, and I am very pleased to say this works flawlessly. Tap anywhere on the screen and your blob (or whatever that dot is supposed to be) jumps – solid work on that mechanic. However, you need to slide either up or down to “Shift” between the 3 levels; this being the key selling point of the game compared to others in the genre.

Here’s the problem: it doesn’t bloody work! If you try and slide with your right thumb, the blob doesn’t shift – it merely jumps again, usually into death. This is horrendous, how difficult can it be to get right? 50% of the title of the game doesn’t function. It’s not like the control screen (yes, this game has a control screen) helps in any way.

ShiftJump - Controls

Okay, I believe I have cracked the code. Seems if you swipe ON the blob, then you shift with very little difficulty. This normally wouldn’t be too much of a problem, but if you move your right thumb (as I am right handed) over to swipe the screen you can’t see a damn thing in front of you. The only conclusion is that this is supposed to be a dual thumb control scheme? Left thumb to shift, right to jump? Either that or the developer honestly believes people play games like this with an incredibly fast index finger.

ShiftJump - Gameplay

Still, can’t be much worse, right? Slightly janky control scheme, these things happen. Rest is great, right? WRONG. If you’ve played The Impossible Game you will know that upon death you are immediately re-spawned back to your last checkpoint, or with Super Hexagon you tap anywhere on the screen to try again, but not with Shift Jump. Upon death on Shift Jump you are greeted with a static death screen. Every. Single. Time.

This is not how to make a fast-paced, purposefully difficult, mobile game! Even more frustratingly, there are two totally un-labelled buttons right next to each on the bottom right of the screen (where my predominate, right thumb resides). One starts you back at your last checkpoint, the other starts the whole bleeding level again! WHY?! On top of that, the icon on top/nearest to the middle of the screen is the start over level button, meaning it’s the most likely one I’ll hit as that’s where my thumb is while holding the iPhone and I was only tapping there milliseconds beforehand hoping to jump, not restart the whole god damn level again!

ShiftJump - OOPS

That’s not even taking into account the number of times reading “OOPS, YOU DIED” made me want to redecorate my neighbour’s garden with pieces of my iPhone 4S.

Is the music at least decent? No. In fact; fuck no. This music is awful. For the first two difficulty settings, it’s akin to using a Q-Tip made of sandpaper… underwater. One track even uses scrambled white noise as a sample. I thought my headphone jack had slipped out. Nope! Just sound garbled on purpose.

Even more irritating is that the music is totally unconnected to what’s happening on screen. It’s not connected to the gameplay at all, which makes it all the more horrendous. There appears to be a certain pool of “songs” (read: 30-40 second loops) per level, but they’re entirely random. At least as far as I could tell. Sometimes the same mundane track would loop 2 or 3 times on the same level. It even politely pauses the music every time you die so you don’t miss a single beat. This wouldn’t be such an issue were the game’s main purpose not to repeat the same levels over and over due to death/high score lust.

ShiftJump - Gameplay

The tracks don’t even loop seamlessly. Some track transitions can give you audio whiplash, while others simply put 5-6 seconds of utterly silence in between to leave you in suspense on what is going to stab your ear drums next.

Alright. Alright. I’m done. My opinion on the game/gameplay is pretty much summarised there. The game is at least technically competent… Assuming you thought Battlefield 4 was history’s more technically perfect launch.

Some errors even appear to be design decisions which is even more baffling to the mind. The clear example being on the menu. You appear to be able to select levels on the right (and difficulties on the left) but the right menu only lets you select between levels 1-1, between levels 2-2, and 3-5… WHY?! Why not 1-2, 3-4, and 5? What’s the logic here?

ShiftJump - Level 3

The 3 layered gameplay is a great idea on paper, but on multiple levels you clip through the ceiling of the layer while taking the only available path, and you can still jump (and thus making your blob disappear from the screen completely. So why even bother with a restriction at all? It makes no sense.

ShiftJump - Ceiling

Not only this, but if you score a 1 Star or 2 Star rating, and decide to go back to replay the level and attempt a 3 Star ranking they don’t appear at the end of the level. Sorry, ran out of stars!

ShiftJump - Stars

Shift Jump is a tragic waste of potential, because I can see with tighter controls, and a better soundtrack, this concept could work well. I have no quarrels with high difficulty, but only when it pertains to gameplay; not bad technical decisions. It’s a shame, but Shift Jump in its current form is absolutely not worth the time and effort.

Areas for Improvement

  • Fix the above mentioned bugs. At time of publication these issues were all present and accounted for.
  • Change the death screen so a single tap anywhere will restart the player from the previous checkpoint.
  • Make it so swiping anywhere on the screen shifts.

Final Analysis

Shift Jump fails to live up to every one of its competitors in the genre. A tragic waste of a unique twist of gameplay, filled with bizarre or downright bad design decisions, and with painful music to boot.

Technical Competency – 2.5/10

Graphic/Sound Quality – 3/10

Network Stability – N/A

Overall – 3/10