The original Shift games were centered on single-screen rooms that let you see the entire layout of the maze at once. Shifting World builds on this concept by introducing multi-screen mazes. The section of the maze you are currently exploring is displayed on the top screen, while the lower screen shows a mini-map of the entire maze. While this doesn't sound like much of a problem, the execution is flawed, since certain elements aren't properly marked on the mini-map. In particular, hazards aren't clearly displayed, meaning that you will more than likely make a jump that looks OK from the bottom view, only to be greeted by the business end of some very pointy terrain. The larger maps also prove frustrating when you're trying to use various devices to open up parts of the maze. For example, when you collect a key that removes some obstacles, it can sometimes be tough to figure out exactly where things disappeared from, leading to more frustrating wandering about.
Shifting World has a very striking appearance. The strictly black-and-white visuals lend a distinct, unique feel to the game's stark maze rooms, and the 3D effect helps you better visualize the layout of the room before a shift takes place. However, the choice of monochrome visuals also has an unintended side effect: it makes everything look the same. Sometimes it's hard to tell if you've already visited a certain part of the maze or not, simply because the lack of color leads to areas looking a lot alike. Even with a mini-map, it's easy to get lost in these rooms for annoyingly long stretches of time.
Making matters worse is that any damage results in having to completely restart the stage, meaning yet more time potentially spent meandering around and growing more annoyed. To top it off, every now and then you experience a sudden bout of input lag. Shifting World isn't terribly reflex-heavy, but in the sequences where you do need a bit of careful timing, losing all of your progress in a room to a delayed button input is rage-inducing.
Shifting World is certainly an interesting game--it's based on a solid concept and offers up some very clever puzzles. It has all the earmarks of a classic puzzler that keeps you coming back for more. That's what makes it so frustrating: it's clear there's a good game under the surface, but it's lying at the bottom of a deep pool of frustrating, ill-conceived design decisions. It certainly looks appealing from above, but most players aren't going to struggle with holding their breath long enough to get to the prize underneath.