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"Your 'reality', sir, is lies and balderdash and I'm delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever."
— Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Freiherr von M√ľnchhausen

Friday Free Game: Shift

Ever hear of the Three Hundred? Webcomic writer Sean Howard is attempting to come up with three hundred game ideas in three hundred days. It's ambitious even if you realize that an "idea" is rather ambiguous. For example, some of his ideas are derivations of one another. But he has produced a large amount of content, complete with screenshots and thorough explanations. I actually stumbled upon his link some time back, but didn't blog about it, so I don't know when. Turns out the guy has gotten all kinds of press – Kotaku, Boing Boing (proof they will cover anything), other obscure game design blogs other than mine, and rightfully so – he's written some cool stuff. Well, one of the things he wrote about (in fact, his mechanic #1) is this idea of a platformer that takes place in two worlds simultaneously on the same screen. The negative space for the one one becomes the positive space for the other. Cool idea, right?

Well, sometime later, Nitrome produces a game called Yin Yang, a negative-space platformer. Jay Bibby gave it a write-up this past September. I played it back then (based on Jay's recommendation) while on the lookout for new candidates for the Friday Free Game. But while the concept is neat, I didn't particularly love the execution. Like many Nitrome games, I feel like it's lacking some of that special sauce that makes a game feel like a well-tuned machine. Maybe they need more playtesting. Anyway, rumors fly about whose idea it was. Nitrome, of course, claims it's purely original.

Well, proof that a great idea seeks out great execution, behold a negative-space platformer done right: a game called Shift, by Armor Games. Here, the concept works flawlessly. It's a small-scale adventure, self-referentially riffing on Portal, complete with distracting messages on the screen (sometimes written upside-down). The controls are über-intutive to anyone who's heard of Mario – run, jump and shift, don't touch the spikes, get keys to change the board. It's fun, it's well-paced, it's got an excellent tutorial, the soundtrack is good, and it's got the sauce. Play. Play now.

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The Red Bull Diary is the personal pulpit and intellectual dumping-ground for its author, an amateur game designer, professional programmer, political centrist and incurable skeptic. The Red Bull Diary is gaming, game design, politics, development, geek culture, and other such nonsense.