Shifter. The word conjures up images of werewolves or some other type of were-creature. Or maybe somebody's been watching too many episodes of Grimm? Jennifer Klement obviously has a different interpretation of the word, and she displays it well in the point and click adventure escape the town game Shifter. If you've needed a good break from the summer festivities or you've been looking for something different to try out, then take a peek at this beauty!
Welcome to the town of Aberdan! You wake up and experience the joy of seeing nothing but strangers all around you. As you'll find out, the countryside is embroiled in war and the guards have been commanded to keep the city gates closed at all times. This is quite the problem for you, seeing as how all you want to do is get out! Your ticket home is your "shifter" ability along with keen conversational skills that lure bits of information out of each stranger.
At the bottom of the screen is a bar with a number of different buttons. Most of your interactions will involve just three of these: the chat bubble to speak to townspeople, the inventory button, and the clone button. To clone a person you must know them well enough to answer three questions correctly. You can't fake your way through this one, you've actually got to do the talking, listening, and talking again in order to learn what you need to know. Getting people to talk is fairly simple, but you'll have to switch between times of day to get different bits of information along with exhausting every branch on the conversation tree multiple times.
Analysis: Shifter takes a familiar idea, escaping a designated area, and gives it a twist. Much like going to a salon and getting a new haircut, you're still the same you, but boy howdy you look purdy! The cloning aspect also ensures you read the dialogue carefully, something many of us happily skip over in most modern games. The most enjoyable part of the game are the characters. Each has his or her own personality, there's no overlap of traits, and they're so endearing it's hard not to want to know more about them and the lives they lead.
Shifter is, unfortunately, not a very long game, but that neither hurts its innovation or entertainment value. Unlike most games in the point and click or escape genres, conversations are absolutely key to beating the game, along with having a piece of paper handy to write down information (or just memorizing it if your brain is up to the task). For a game that's so focused on reading, you'll be surprised to know that Shifter isn't nearly as text heavy as many of its counterparts. You ask a few questions, get some information, talk to the next person and repeat. No walls of text or pseudo-novels to digest. And these people seem perfectly willing to talk about their lives to a complete stranger, even though you tell them nothing of yourself!
One can only hope that there will be more of Shifter in the future or that the unique cloning feature will become more prominent in the genre or allow for more interactions with the environment. Still, it's fun to see how fast you can make your escape even after having done it once, twice... okay five times. But hey, there's nothing wrong with wanting to better your sleuthing skills!
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