There’s something quite calming about sliding blocks around to work your way through a puzzle. There haven’t been many similar puzzle games that have captivated me in the way Shift Quantum has in a long time. The last one that springs to mind is Catherine (which is one one of our most anticipated of 2018). It has been six years since the last Shift game was released for Nintendo 3DS, and after a long wait, Xbox gamers finally get to join in on the fun.
Players take control of an unnamed man in black. When first booting up Shift Quantum, players are greeted by an automated voice that registers our protagonists brain with Axon Vertigo. This company’s main prerogative is to bring happiness to everyone. They do this by ultimately providing a brain stimulus through a series of 117 puzzles with increasing difficulty.
The hook in Shift Quantum is that players can press a button and instantly be flipped into the negative space below their feet. What was once a hole is now a step, or if players get stuck in a pit it instantly becomes a large spire for them to traverse. Switching planes provides for some seriously deep puzzle mechanics, which provided a large depth to gameplay that I wasn’t expecting through the first ten to twenty puzzles.
Shift Quantum eases players into the puzzle difficulty at a surprisingly good pace. Intermixed with puzzles that I was able to breeze through were large challenges that required a lot more thought than the level before. It didn’t help that I was always trying to procure Shift Quantum’s collectibles, called glitches. These had zero impact on gameplay, and instead provided an extra challenge for those that wanted it.
Throughout the series of puzzles, new mechanics are introduced. Some are simpler, like moveable blocks. Others like the gravity shift required more thought and planning, especially when combining these mechanics with the plane shifting gameplay. Some of the levels became a constant battle of trial and error, and though I got stuck more than a few times between glitches and more difficult puzzles, often I was just thinking too hard about a puzzle.
Trial and error shouldn’t be an issue for most though, because these interactions often came about while I was trying to obtain glitches. Again, because most of the puzzles aren’t overly difficult, most people will get stuck because they’re trying to figure out a difficult puzzle in an overly complicated way. This was the biggest learning curve I had for Shift Quantum. I had to rethink all of the puzzles in a different way in order to progress. I was often looking at the negative space to figure out a way to the exit instead of my immediate surroundings.
Visually, Shift Quantum appeals to a minimalist aesthetic. This works to its favor with gameplay by not overcrowding the screen with too many flairs. The background sets it in what feels like a dystopian universe, with people relying on AI and machines to bring them happiness. There are slight bits of movement in the background, but never enough to draw the players eyes in the midst of a deep puzzle. There are brief splashes of color, but all of them are in regards to the story buried in Shift Quantum. I won’t actually go into the story here because like the visuals, the story is very minimalistic and open to interpretation.
Puzzle lovers really should check out Shift Quantum, as the puzzles are deep and challenging. Levels have an added layer of depth with the collectibles, but since they aren’t required for anything, I was able to choose the difficulty. There is a ton of content here between glitches and the 117 levels, and the 20 dollar price tag is extremely hard to resist for anyone looking to scratch a cerebral itch.