Your Sinclair1st May 1991
Published in Your Sinclair #65
Have you ever been in the position where you really haven't a clue what's going on? (Not even the faintest inkling.) Like when you wake up halfway through an episode of Twin Peaks. Or you're in the middle of making a packet-mix cake and you realise you've thrown away the instructions. If not then your first game of Night Shift will come as quite a revelation. It's just like that, only worse. Hundreds of times worse.
Right from the outset it's been designed to be confusing. It soon becomes apparent from reading the first few pages of the instructions that you're in charge of a large machine (called the BEAST) into one end of which are put raw materials and out of the other emerge dolls of various shapes and colours. At the beginning of each shift you're given a production quota to be a achieved - any dolls past this mean extra pay.
Easy enough? Ahem. Although the inner workings of the machine have been clarified since the game came out on the 16-bits they're still pretty tricky to get your head round. Suffice to say that it's split into various components which each perform part of the manufacturing process. To make things harder, whoever wrote the manual has decided to miss out all the 'e's and even leave out pages. Amusing or irritating? I'll leave it to you to decide. (But it annoyed the hell out of me, I'll tell you that for nowt.) There is some compensation. To start off with most of the machine is automated, leaving you to deal with the 'simpler' bits and pieces. All the same, your first few games are likely to consist mainly of head-scratching, chin-rubbing and quite a lot of swearing.
Once you're past that first initial hurdle (which isn't helped by some very unclear graphics in places), and dolls start rolling off the production line to the accompaniment of a range of clunking and chuffing noises, things get a lot more interesting. There's lots of dashing about to be done, switching conveyor belts backwards and forwards, pressing buttons, adjusting valves, collecting stuff and generally keeping an eye on things. And that means testing your platform gaming skills to their limit over the 3 or 4 vertically-scrolling screens that contain the machine. Things gradually tougher and tougher as more and more is left under your control (so it's probably just as well there's a password to each level). Night Shift positively oozes playability, and secretes quality for that matter.
So crap it's not. A deluge of corkingly original ideas and slick execution throughout make it as near as dammit an essential purchase. In fact, if it wasn't for a faint question mark over its addictiveness Night Shift would be a Megagame for sure. But it's not. Missed it by a pinch as they say. (Sorry.)
Seemingly impenetrable factory game that's actually jolly good indeed.