Shift into maximum first gear.
Protoshift is a dynamic maze game developed by Reflextions, and available on Steam for the low price of $1.99. Everything about Protoshift screams simple: the 2-D game design, its presentation, even its inherent difficulty is rooted in its simplicity. That said, I died at the starting screen three times because I thought I was somehow supposed to dodge an incoming wall of color.
In Protoshift, you are a floating square controlled by your mouse, and your objective is to navigate your way through a series of gaps. However, an always moving viewpoint (sometimes denoted by a hazard sign) provides a dynamic flare that keeps things interesting. As the level increases, the rotations and scroll speed of the screen get faster. There are three power-ups: a clock that slows the pace of the game, a shield that grants invulnerability, and a “snowflake” that makes you smaller and gaps are thereby easier to navigate.
The game’s presentation and delivery are straightforward enough. The ever-rotating, shifting game screens are disorienting at first, and your level of visual comfort will vary depending on your propensity for motion sickness (I did get a little queasy at first, but thankfully it quickly subsided). After a brief training mode, you can unlock Hard, Very Hard, and Futile modes. These modes aren’t innocuous either; they start out approachable enough only to get exponentially more challenging in a very short space of time.
As a word of advice, you may want to fiddle with the DPI settings on your mouse since I found the game to be a lot more responsive when set around at approximately 4800 DPI, which I found provided a decent balance between control and difficulty, without feeling overly loose. Even then, however, the game maintains a challenge, without ever being fist-slammingly difficult. Protoshift‘s background music is also quite good, especially if you have an interest in trance or industrial soundscapes. The developers clearly knew they were onto something, too, given that they went so far as to create a soundtrack with tracks from the game which can be purchased separately from the Steam Store.
With all that in mind, Protoshift provides a decent amount of content for the money and keeps it relatively in line with other games of its ilk, such as Flappy Bird or the Flash-powered World’s Hardest Game. Protoshift also features about a dozen achievements for players to collect which provide a sense of accomplishment and progress, particularly for those completionists out there. Given the abundance of games such as this, and the propensity for fairly regular sales on Steam, it perhaps won’t be long before Protoshift finds itself reduced even further.
Reflextions hasn’t reinvented the wheel here; I’ve spent about 4 hours playing, and even though I didn’t unlock Futile difficulty, I don’t feel remiss in not doing so. The well of gratifying experiences in this game seem pretty shallow, but for the price of entry there’s a fair share of fun to be had, and some rather fantastic songs to hear as you play along. If only the standalone soundtrack had been included in the price, then we may have truly been onto something great here.