“Our market research indicates that there’s a gap we can exploit,” says a faceless somebody in a suit. “There aren’t many games about janitors. We should make a game about that.”
The suit would look annoyed, if he had a face. “Alien janitors. That’s what I meant. Go away and make that.”
And so here we are, and there is Shiftlings [official site]. It’s a game in which you, you and a friend or – if you’re feeling brave – a complete stranger control a pair of alien janitors.
The pair are attached to one another via a tube joining their spacesuits, and apparently they’re incompetent enough to have over-inflated said suits. This proves fortunate, as the levels they’re tasked with exploring can only be navigated through shifting the excess air back and forth, allowing the deflated alien to run through small gaps, or bounce on their inflated colleague in order to reach higher areas. Hilarity and puzzle-solving ensues.
I’m always on the lookout for more local co-op games for the PC so I’m looking forward to playing this. About the only thing I don’t like about it so far are the fart jokes, because I’m a boring old fart myself, but perhaps there are hitherto undiscovered health benefits to fart jokes.
I dimly recall seeing footage of an early prototype of Shiftlings in the mists of 2013, so it’s pleasing to see that it’s grown up, packed its bags and set out into the wide world of Actually Finished Games. I’m also mildly surprised to see that Shiftlings is the second release (the first being Geometry Wars 3) from the new Sierra. When Activision resurrected the brand it was easy to be cynical about their intentions – using a fondly remembered name associated, among other things, with classic adventure games, for… what exactly? Using nostalgia as a marketing tool? Producing unnecessary reboots of old games? Flogging Sierra’s back catalogue (and presumably not doing as good a job of it as GOG tend to)? A part of me is happy to see Cynical Shaun knocked down a peg or two. The rest of me says “don’t count your chickens, son.”
Whatever Activision / Sierra have planned for the future, Shiftlings is available now on Steam for £10.99 / €14.99 / $14.99.