Sliding boxes around normally isn’t my idea of a good time – at least, not anymore. Call it burn out, call it cynicism, the point is I’m getting a little tired of seeing so many similar ideas in games. Of course this opens up the argument about how there’s nothing legitimately “new” anymore and everything is an iteration of something else, but that’s a discussion for some other time. Where was I going with this? Oh yeah: Warp Shift makes sliding boxes around interesting again.
The entire point of each level is to guide a young girl named Pi to the exit, which in-turn spits her out into another level with another exit to reach. Moving her around is a simple matter of tapping a reachable location, but it’s making those locations reachable that’s Warp Shift’s main conceit. Most of the rooms in a stage don’t line up, you see. So in order to get Pi out you’ll need to slide rooms around in order to create pathways or access points. It’s particularly tricky (and cool) when you consider that rooms can be shifted out of the grid, and will then slide back into place on the opposite end – so sliding out of the far right will see the room appear in the far left, top will become bottom, etc.
As is the norm these days, the puzzles start out almost painfully easy and take a while to really ramp up in difficulty. Once they do, though, you’ll encounter some pretty serious head-scratchers. Well, okay, that’s not entirely accurate. Just completing a level is simply a matter of persistence. Completing a level within a certain number of moves, indicated by a counter in the top-left corner, is where Warp Shift’s devious nature becomes apparent. If you finish within the move limit you can earn anywhere from one to three stars, and a specific number of stars are needed in order to unlock the next group of stages.
Each section introduces a new mechanic that adds even more wrinkles to reaching the (initially basic) goal. First there are purple gateways/doors that only open when they’re lined up with other purple gateways/doors. Then you have to reach a cute little cube-thing (Pi even hugs it when she finds it, which is freaking adorable) in order to unlock the exit. After that it’s doors that can only be opened by activating a switch. The list goes on but you get the idea. Each new element makes earning stars that much more difficult, and they layer together quite well in a frustrating but satisfying when you figure it out sort of way. The only problem is that the overall difficulty seems to fluctuate somewhat randomly – meaning one stage will feel all but impossible and take several tries, then the next one will be a cinch.
While I definitely appreciate all the new toys Warp Shift has been putting at my disposal, and earning three stars on a later stage is always a great feeling, I do have one major complaint: there’s no Undo button. Yes it’s entirely possible (and sometimes necessary) to restart a level when trying to earn stars, but restarting is all it is. If I’m several steps into a puzzle and make a silly mistake, having to start from the beginning again becomes arduous. Something as simple as being able to undo a single move would make going after more stars a lot less frustrating.
Speaking as someone who’s been getting rather tired of sliding box puzzles, I think Warp Shift is genuinely refreshing. The way it requires you to think differently about space, the various extra puzzle elements that come into play and integrate with each other, and especially those cute little cube key things; it all makes Warp Shift a worthwhile brain teaser.