The most import element of the game is shifting. By pressing the Shift key the game world is turned upside down and player is able to traverse in a different color. If the player moved around in a white part and there is room to shift, the entire area is changed as now the black parts can be accessed. This is used to solve puzzles where players collect keys to rotate barriers, newspaper scraps and light bulbs to remove parts of the level. There are also arrow buttons that turn the world upside down or rotate it 90 degrees.
Player can soon pick up a PDA where the different areas of the facility are shown near the bottom of the screen. Players can also takes notes for different areas to come back to later. Rather than a linear set of screens, players often need to manipulate barriers or levels to cause changes in different places. As such, there are also multiple endings based on the collected newspaper scraps, an access code or simply floating into space.
There are sixteen achievements to collect and some of these open up new playable characters. Progress is stores and the game can be continued at a later time. Custom levels can be designed in the included Shifted level editor. Next to the main adventure the game includes three adventure packs from Shift 2 with six levels each. The packs are Grey Games, Azurieq Pack and Assorted. Completing each pack unlocks another achievement. The general atmosphere with an omniscient narrator providing clues and hindering the player at the same time appears to have been inspired by Portal.