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A fortnightly look at the best on-line games. This week a simple platforming mechanics special: Focus and Shift

The pure and simple art form of the platformer has seemingly had a resurgence in recent times. Many of the console markets’ arcade games have reached out for this decaying genre and given it a fresh coat of modern paint. Some have a been a complete bounding success, others have fallen short, into the spikes below.Ever the leader, or perhaps more often the imitator, of innovation, the realm of browser based games has never really stepped away from the platformer. Far too often though, most of these games offer no real progression for the genre, leaving us with nothing more to do that simply run and jump.Today I bring to you two platformers, one heavy on the action, the other puzzle minded, which deliver a single ability to the protagonist that differentiates it from the ranks around them.Focus by UnknownJoeIt is quite miraculous how one simple change in mechanics can create a totally exhilarating and refreshing experience. Focus is a platformer that is heavy on the crazy action, and loves to watch you die. It begins with a simple pixelated blob with the ability to walk around and jump, then suddenly you collect this gem that grants you the ability to focus. Pressing the focus button creates a small sphere around your character that slows down time and allows you to teleport instantly between two points. Brilliantly, you also gain momentum from the displacement which allows you to fling yourself across the map.”Focus on what you’re good at and stick with it.There is no plot, or anything else for that matter, But the 50 levels are cleverly designed to be constantly frustrating without ever becoming completely impossible. The focus mechanic gets even more interesting and intricate as you fully comprehend its abilities, and soon you’ll be dodging rockets, lasers and mines and flying across the map in an instant. That, or constantly dying.Shift by Anthony Lavelle (ArmorGames)Shift has become something of a phenomenon in browser gaming. The combination of a brilliant gaming mechanic, mind-bendingly clever levels and an eerie Portal-esque testing situation create a very interesting and enjoyable experience. Pressing the shift key swaps the monochrome colours changing the areas the your character can climb upon, essentially allowing you to switch between two platforming worlds.Shift that fat ass, Harry. But slowly, or you’ll swamp the damned boat.Somehow this very simple, but beautifully executed mechanic, have spawned 3 sequels and while eventually the shifting does make you feel a little pale, some of the more fiendish puzzles are exceptionally clever and well thought out. If you have not already shifted before then this is certainly something that you should Shift into right now.

Edd Harwood

Updated: Nov 08, 2011

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