Review by bricc on Sunday, March 31st 2019
Click to play Shifting Boxes

Shifting Boxes is a game created by sivershadows

I'm back once again, this time with my third review on "Shifting Boxes", a physics game by sivershadows. Today's been a seriously long day - it's a Thursday again, and that means sitting through a 3 hour 45 minute Games Design lesson. However, this afternoon, instead of developing my own game I'll be taking a look at sivershadows' finished product over here on Sploder. I chose this game because I knew it was one of the only physics puzzle games left in the EGD (a competition that, if I am correct, is held annually) queue waiting to be reviewed, and thought I'd pull my weight and review it. On with the review!

I know sivershadows fairly well from the forums where she's known as "Crazykittyzz". I don't, however, know what her game making skills are like since (I think) I've only ever played one of her games, and that was years ago. This meant I had to base my expectations off the facts I do know. Sivershadows has 3 featured games and the majority of her games are PPGs. From this information, it seems to me that sivershadows knows what she's doing when it comes to this creator since it seems to be the one she has focused on and used the most. Although, keeping in mind I haven't got any other knowledge to base my expectations on, I went in expecting a mediocre game and just thought "maybe I'll just have a nice surprise".

As I stated previously, my motive for reviewing this game was merely because it was in the EGD queue and nobody had claimed it, meaning I didn't even look at the thumbnail before playing the game. I'd usually write about my prethoughts from the thumbnail here, but I guess I'll just give my opinions on the thumbnail as a whole. I have to admit, I don't think it's interesting in the slightest. It's very dull, with the colours mostly consisting of shades of brown. It doesn't display any real information about the game. If I were going into the game now for my first time, I'd still be as clueless after looking at the thumbnail as I would have been before looking at it. The title, however, does give the player at least a little idea of what they'll be doing during the game, so at least the title is relevant. The thumbnail appears to just be a capture of what I recall being level 4, whereas in this instance a custom thumbnail would've done the job nicely in my opinion (and a dash of colour).

I think sivershadows took the best approach for this type of game when it comes to the story. It's very vague and not overcomplicated for a game where you simply move boxes around, but also works a little better than no storyline at all. It also leaves the player with a bit of freedom to continue the story however they wish in their mind; maybe you're trying to earn money to purchase a lamborghini with "Bricc" painted on the side. Anyway, the game tells you the story briefly in the first level, but it does it quickly so you don't have too much to read or get tired waiting for the game to actually begin. Your friend asks you to go outside and participate in a snowball fight, but the player responds saying that he/she can't as they have to help their stepdad move some boxes. All in all I think the story is basic but works for the game, and that's good enough for me.

And now the gameplay. I almost didn't end up reviewing Shifting Boxes, because I almost gave up on the very first level. The first thing you have to do is find a key to unlock a door so you're able to move a box. I have mixed opinions about this. On the one hand, I like how the game isn't solely moving boxes around so you aren't always doing the same old same old. On the other hand, however, some of the side puzzles/activies are frustrating or it's just really unobvious as to what you must do, which is the case in the first level (level 2 if you include the intro). I appreciated that there was small text telling me "the key must be here somewhere", but it didn't tell me that I was able to drag the little crates around. Because you can't drag the main boxes that you have to shift to the goal, I assumed you couldn't drag these crates. It's a small flaw but it really left me clueless for a while, and that's not that great for a first level. After and during completing side puzzles, you must use the arrow keys to move the larger boxes to the yellow goals. It's a simple concept, but it works.

There are also doors which can be dragged open and closed, constantly adding to the stress, considering you lose even if they only slightly touch a box. The second level introduced some nice concepts, such as having to put a bucket under some dripping water in order to save the electric boxes and turning the heating on, though the execution wasn't so good. You have absolutely no time to react and have to complete these tasks at lightning speed or you'll get 5 penalties and lose. The time for receiving the penalties should be increased in my opinion. This is especially frustrating if you're playing the level for your first time and don't know what you're doing, because you'll have to constantly press "retry" every 5 seconds until you finally figure it out. The mouse (which I swear looks like a bat) boss on level 4 is a really nice addition; it's fast paced and it gives you such an adrenaline rush towards the end, since you have such short (but a fair amount of) time and a fair amount to do. The only thing I didn't like here is having to turn off the heating, because I didn't know you had to do it for a while and kept losing and not knowing why. Final complaint! Some objects were extremely hard to drag because strangely only about an eighth of the object was actually draggable. Small fault, so moving on.

The visuals in Shifting Boxes are average. If you know me, you know I'm a huge fan of just using the default PPG textures. This game does that, but also integrates graphics. Sometimes mixing the two doesn't work out too well, but sivershadows gets it right here. You can make out clearly what every object (apart from that "mouse" in level 4) is which definitely makes the gameplay smoother. The only issue I came to with the design was that, particularly on level 1, I couldn't easily see the doors. Maybe I just need better glasses, but the dark grey on the brown was not clearly visible to me and I had to die to a door to realise it was even there. As I said, I do like the art style the game uses, however it is a little bland. I won't complain about that too much, though, since sivershadows clearly makes an effort to fix this by adding little decorations such as mops, extra crates and more in places that have no gameplay elements. Overall, pretty good in my eyes (and on my screen... I'm not going to make any more jokes for the rest of this review, I promise).

One of the bigger flaws in this game is probably the difficulty. Everyone loves a challenging game, but even in some of the toughest games, we still get an opportunity to learn how to play first, before being thrown into some crazy scenario. Unfortunately, Shifting Boxes fails to do this, as right from the beginning you're left on your own with no guidance. For the later levels, this is fine, but I do feel like sivershadows could have made (specifically) the second level a little easier for the reasons I mentioned a few paragraphs ago. The difficulty at the start could make players turn away very easily, but once you've got the ropes, you're here to stay. I find the game to have quite a fair amount of replayability; most of the side puzzles, once figured out and solved for the first time, are really easy to solve again. This makes it a lot less tedious to go back through it (like I had to in order to write this review) as you can mostly breeze through it. Admittedly, if I didn't have to replay the first few levels to refresh my memory to write this, I probably wouldn't have a motive to replay it.


Story • 3.5/5 • Works well for the game but still basic.

Thumbnail • 1.5/5 • Almost as bad as having an entirely black square.

Visuals • 3/5 • I would give this an average 2.5, but it's executed well.

Gameplay • 3.5/5 • Not exactly original, but effort is clearly shown and it is indeed fun.

Difficulty • 2/5 • Jumped into some things a little too fast.

All in all, I did admittedly have at least a semi enjoyable time playing Shifting Boxes and I felt like I had achieved something when overcoming the challenges and completed it. The ratings I've given it are a little low in some aspects, but having played the game and finished it entirely, I think it is borderline feature worthy. This is the type of game that could return with an epic sequel (wink wink, sivershadows) and if that were to become a thing I'd definitely jump to play it. Thanks for giving this review a read. I noticed it's quite lengthy, so thank you for sticking with me all this way!


Shifting Boxes Reviewed by bricc on Sunday, March 31st 2019. SHIFT & Box - A game review written by bricc for the game 'Shifting Boxes' by sivershadows. Rating: 5