Night Shift is a 2D platformer with a strategic element in which the player, as either Fred or Fiona Fixit, has to maintain and properly configure an enormous factory production machine named the BEAST. The BEAST needs to meet a quota of toys based on Star Wars and Indiana Jones and can only produce them if all its components are in working order.
As well as performing fixes and switching levers so that all the conveyor belts are moving in the correct direction, the player character also has to jump on a stationary bike to recharge the system's battery power.
The game was the fledgling product of UK game developer Attention to Detail. LucasFilm took the team under their wing, adding the LucasFilm tie-in and expanding the scope of the game. Prior to their involvement, the game was to be called Fixit. It was released for various 8-bit and 16-bit home computer systems active in Europe in 1990.
Each level of Night Shift is a shift of work at the same factory. Because of this, the playing field never changed. Rather, in the early levels, most of the factory parts that the player will eventually have to maintain and manage function automatically without needing any work. They're also kept behind plexiglass initially, so the player wouldn't be overwhelmed by the BEAST's multiple functions. As the game progresses, more parts of the machine are unlocked which adds to the player's responsibilities and the game's difficulty.
Not only does the player have to mange a huge number of tasks, they also have to maneuver a level of conveyor belts and platforms to get to them. The player cannot see the whole level at once and the tools needed are single use. This includes the wrench and matches which are used to keep some parts of the machine operational. If they run out, the player has no chance of winning. The game had zero margin of error in later shifts. Each delivered toy has to be made perfectly (and being the end product of many processes, this was hard) and if the player didn't meet the quota, the game ended.
The machine Fred and Fiona work in. It is made of many parts and comprises the entire playing field.
- Battery - Powered by riding a bicycle. Two light bulbs indicate how well the battery is charged by the speed at which they flash. Charging the battery is the first step of every shift. It must be repeated periodically throughout the shift as well. If the battery ever goes fully dead, the furnace goes out too and has to be lit.
- Furnace - Must be kept lit or most devices in the factory won't have power.
- Raw Material Feeder - Plug must be in and conveyor belt moving in correct direction.
- Solidifier Supplier - Must be kept plugged in and and at the right temperature. The temperature isn't set with a discrete controller, rather the mixture is heated and cooled and then is set to maintain that temperature.
- Expander Supplier - Balloons attached indicate pressure levels.
- Liquid Concentrate Supplier - Must be controlled with wheel and lever to keep flow of concentrate steady.
- Resin Maker - Has bolts that come loose and have to be tightened.
- Doll Molds - Both head and body molds are set independently. If they do not both come from the same toy, the doll produced won't count.
- Head Punch - After a set number of parts are produced, a boxing glove will punch the mold out and queue up the next mold. This must be kept plugged in and the counter set correctly.
- Paint Shop - The paint must be mixed to the correct color. There are three base paints (red, blue, yellow) used to mix several additional colors (like green and brown). The fan must be plugged in or the paint won't dry.
- Bonding Unit - Glues doll parts together. If the parts don't match, it is sometimes possible to shuffle the order they enter the machine to ensure a match.
- Quality Controller - Is not controlled by the player, automatically rejects incorrectly made dolls. Dolls have to be made from one head on top of one body and must follow the design on the quota.
- Stock Checker - Counts the number of dolls made correctly against the daily quota. A correctly made doll still has to be the right type and painted correctly or it won't count towards the quota. Once the goal has been, extra proper dolls of any kind will raise the player's earnings.
- Packaging - Each properly made doll must be placed in a crate after it has passed the stock checker.
All tools are single use but the player character can hold multiples and they carry over between shifts.
- Wrench - Used to tighten bolts.
- Match Stick - Used to light flames.
- Helium Balloon - Allows the protagonist to rise quickly in the machine.
- Umbrella - Allows the protagonist to fall quickly in the machine.
- Vacuum Cleaner - Used to suck up Lemmings.
- Venus Trap - Eats Lemmings.
- Hourglass - Extends the shift timer.
- Cash Bonus - Raises the score.
- Lemming - A male named Cliff who tampers with equipment and a female named Jodee who will latch onto the player character, slowing them down. They can be kicked, vacuumed, or fed to the Venus Trap.
Both play the same, but one is a woman and one a man.
The dolls that can be manufactured all feature in other LucasArts games (mostly being characters from George Lucas movies).
- Darth Vader
- Luke Skywalker
- Stormtrooper (called "Trooper Toddlers" in the manual)
- Indiana Jones
The manual was written as though it really was the maintenance manual for the machine being operated. Complete with torn pages, scrawled notes, and coffee stains. It was also made to look as if it was typed on a typewriter missing an 'e'.
Like many games of that era, Night Shift came with a code wheel. The player matched the heads and bodies of characters from LucasArts games to get four fruits the player needs to enter as a security clearance before playing.
Although it does not come up in the game, the manual has a very strong recycling theme with all the materials being recycled from something else.