It takes a lot of planning and problem-solving to make a good puzzle game; variety, uniqueness and thought provocation are necessary. Shift Quantum, a newly released game by Fishing Cactus, delivers on all three and more.
Axon Vertigo, the fictional company behind the Shift Quantum program, tasks participants to complete many puzzles to “place happiness within your reach.”
The overall gameplay concept of Shift Quantum is one that’s been seen before, but unique in its own right. Phasing between dimensions to change the layout and open new paths is a concept that’s been used before in games like Outland — albeit in a different manner.
However, the individuality of Shift Quantum lies not in the general mechanics, but in the little details of achieving the ultimate end goal. Beyond the shift, there are assortments of moveable blocks, pressure plates, fans and other obstacles that can be altered and avoided in one or both dimensions. Using the negative space to open up a fan in the positive space can be the missing link to complete a level, for example. Little mistakes and faults in judgment can lead to a quick demise and force a restart.
Gamepads are recommended for Shift Quantum as it makes the reflexes quicker, and can save you from accidentally hitting the “Shift” key instead of the “Control” key. For the speedrunners out there, there isn’t much to be had concerning a time limit. There’s no rush to complete each level and no scores to beat on a clock. However, that shouldn’t be a detraction, there’s just no official speedrun variation of Shift Quantum.
The layout of each level varies wildly and isn’t confined to progression difficulty. While progressing through the 117 readily available mazes, there is a variety of difficulty scattered throughout. Some levels are mind-numbing difficult while others can be solved with little trouble. By breaking the norm of “difficulty increases with progression,” it can be easy to overthink levels that are otherwise extremely simple. This adds an extra layer of complexity to the gameplay and a thought to keep in mind: If it looks simple, it most likely is.
After completing the campaign, or before, Shift Quantum has a simple level editor where players can create their own puzzles or testing themselves in other user-made puzzles.
The noir visual style of Shift Quantum and the bustling futuristic background adds a unique layer to the dystopian setting. It’s a classic pairing that never seems to get old. A single splash of color is found in the main character’s yellow scarf. The scarf is interesting in that it stays the same no matter how many times you shift dimensions. It offers an intriguing thought that, no matter how much one changes, some things remain the same.
Tying it all together, the music and ambiance of Shift Quantum add a layer of depth and engagement. It is something to consider getting as a standalone for a study session or general focus music.
With the variety of levels and the ability to create new levels, there is a high level of replay value. There is no incentive to improve time scores. However, this is something that can be overlooked due to the overall variety offered throughout the game.
Overall, Shift Quantum a fun and addictive addition to anybody’s puzzle game collection. There is enough unique gameplay to keep players on their toes and an excellent soundtrack to tie it all together.
Shift Quantum releases worldwide for PC, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One today.