The cover art from Shiny’s steam page got my attention right away. I’m a sucker for interesting looking platformers. Just look at those cute little yellow eyes, they almost smile at you. My initial thought was that Shiny would be a fun loving little robot platformer. Perhaps with a quirky soundtrack and interesting mechanics involving robotic acrobatics. To my surprise, however, Shiny was pretty much the exact opposite.
Developer: Garage 227
Publisher: 1C Company
Release Date: 31 Aug, 2016
The main character is *not* Shiny, but rather a robot named Kramer 227. Your objective as Kramer 227 is to save all the robots from a planet on the verge of exploding. The humans inhabiting the planet decided to split and leave you and your companion robots to die – interplanetary kindness at its finest. There is a decently long cut scene to explain the whole story at the beginning of the game, and that is the extent of any story line I saw during the time I played. It seems the robots are out of power and you have to charge them up so you can save them while escaping the planet yourself. I’m not quite sure why Kramer has the ability to stay charged up when all the other robots are deactivated, but so be it.
The robots are placed here and there in harder to reach areas. Generally, below or above where you would normally want to move. In each level there are supposed to be four hidden robots – at least in all the levels I played. Most of the time, I could only find two or three of them by the end of the level. Once you rescue two of them, it enables some sort of hyper power ability that can be activated by pressing a game button on your controller or keyboard. I believe this hyper power has something to do with a special battery that gives you an extended extra charge when you are running out of power. If enabled, you renew your power for a brief time from what I saw and are fairly invincible. Once used, though, it is gone forever unless you restart the level or find two more robots. Other than this charge boost, finding robots gets you some stats on the level completion as well. Those robots, though, are not the actual game as you would think. The game itself consists solely of platforming through the metal and fire to the end, just rescuing robots if you can. I was a little dismayed at this as my expectation was for more robot to robot interactions.
As you progress along through the levels, you collect energy power capsules. These give you a small amount of health charge as your internal battery gets depleted from taking hits from falling rocks, bonking yourself, or just waiting too long to jump. You are in constant motion to replenish your power reserves, so these capsules keep you going until you get to the next checkpoint. Each little mistake like being slapped on the butt with moving machinery, rescuing robots, and even shielding yourself will run your power dry. I’ll be getting back to the shields later.
Jumps would often be into a blind area on a platform. At first, I thought it was the “Leap of Faith” style of jumping, but after checking the controls you do have the ability to pan around a bit to see the next platform. However, that pan becomes unusable once you get to trapdoors in front of platforms. Since you have only two seconds to jump to the next area – which may or may not be visible – there is no way to pan and jump quickly. In the first half of the game you need to jump to these hanging platforms on wires, quick trapdoor platforms on steel girders, and moving platforms going up and down or side to side. It takes some time to get used to jumping without looking as it isn’t something a platformer typically wants you to do. Usually, you want to have a sense of where you are landing. With Shiny, you just guess where the platform will be and hope for a lot of checkpoint lives. This trial by error jumping was less than satisfying. Often I’d just aim for the edge of the wires and grit my teeth while waiting to see if I made it or not. If I had time to pan and look around, it’s much easier. However, there are sections that you will not have the time for that luxury, leaving only blind jumps to lead you through.
There is a shield to activate once you get to a certain point in the game. Upon using it, the shield blocks falling rocks from hurting you. However, it also depletes your power health. That made little sense to me because the shield would usually kill me faster than the actual rocks that are pummeling me. You have to alternate between shield death and rock death back and forth until you have an idea of how to endure the damage to get to the end of the level. I’m still shaking my head on that one. The only time shields were any good was with a short cascade of rocks. Overall, I’d say the shields are nearly useless.
One major issue I had with Shiny is that controls sometimes feel off. I would often be at the edge of a platform and want to jump but instead I’d walk right off. Another example is that sometimes when you land there is a bit of a bounce step that will make you fall down even if you had a clean landing. Also, sometimes I would be in a good position in front of a moving piston and even before a piston came down to smash me I would fall down dead. I would not go so far as to say the controls are broken, but they definitely need tweaking. Kramer also feels a bit heavy and I think that affects the precision slightly.
There is another odd control issue on mission 8 where you begin to overheat after running through fire and have a short time to cool yourself off. On the controller, you must press RT and LB back and forth really fast to do this. Honestly, I cannot do it. I tried over and over and it is physically impossible for my fingers to do this finger little dance on my controller that fast. On the keyboard, however, it’s quite easy. So, I had to switch to keyboard instead of the controller in order to play the level! I was actually better using the controller than the keyboard, so I alternated between putting down the controller and picking up the keyboard back and forth. It was just terrible because I’d lose time and power by doing this. If the action was to simply mash *one* button it would have been so much easier. This came up again in level 10 where to my surprise; the button mash to get rid of the overheating simply stopped working. The only way to progress would be to not catch fire, which is virtually impossible. At this point I gave up on the game due to this bug.
Another sore point I have with Shiny is the save and checkpoint system. It’s not a very casual platformer in its current state. Each level has certain checkpoints to search out. Once you get to them you have a set number of lives. Once those lives are up, you must restart the entire level from the beginning. That’s right, the entire level from scratch. I understand the nod to the classic platformers of old, but in this current age of gaming I think it comes off as frustrating for most gamers. It would be preferable to have the *option* to play it with actual checkpoints that don’t disappear. If the levels were shorter, I probably would not mind so much. There is a fine line of difficulty, length, and effort on game levels and Shiny is a bit more on the frustrating side of that line on some of the levels I played.
I tried playing Shiny on both Normal and Easy settings. From what I gathered, the only difference was that Easy gave me more lives at the checkpoints. There was no actual difference in the gameplay. That said, I proceeded to restart the game on Easy rather than get angry at the small amount of lives I had on the Normal settings.
There are no puzzles in the game that I could see. The levels were entirely platforming with no storyline sections. Platforming is well designed for difficulty, but its all jumping from one platform to the next and avoiding pitfalls. No bouncing off walls, no double jumps, no power up bonuses, no unlockables, no shooting or throwing objects. It’s very basic in its content. The platforming itself, however, is well thought out in difficulty. If you just try to jump back and forth you’ll likely bonk your head and fall down. You have to be aware of the limited space in which to move upwards and note your jumping positions. The main difficulties tend to be in avoiding moving objects from crushing you or jumping for a platform and simply missing it. That sounds incredibly simple in structure, but Shiny looks less for levels that require pinpoint accuracy to finish and more at time dependent movements and blind faith jumping. Really, this was very disappointing as I was hoping to have fun with the game instead of grinding through levels that just get harder without much change in the methodology. It seemed like towards the end of every hard level were just more rocks falling on my head.
MUSIC AND GRAPHICS
I was surprised at how somber the game music was sometimes. This was mostly in the beginning. The music is very relaxing with a piano composition, but not anything upbeat. I realize the game is about dying robot friends that you are trying to save, so it’s understandable for the melancholy in the tone of the music. Yet, with all the grey, charcoal, and metallic overtones covering my screen it brings out a sadder feel from the music than needed. I don’t think that was the intention of the composer to be honest. It’s just the way game feels with the lack of color in the game background. I was expecting something a bit more upbeat, but it was more along the lines of something I’d hear playing a puzzle game. I think the music was well done, just a bit more sullen than expected. As you progress through the levels, the music becomes a bit more frenetic. This was a good change in the overall feel with the levels.
Graphics gave me some issues. If you turn up the graphics all the way up, the look of the game still feels about the same as if it was on medium. There is no added zing to the background or characters. On some levels I’d get occasional screen tearing too. Lastly, if I went to the pause menu during a level, I could not get my controller to select anything. I’d have to switch to keyboard and mouse if I wanted to change settings mid game. Once, the game froze up on me. This wasn’t repeatable for me, so I can’t say if it is a big issue to address or not. Overall, the controller barely worked on the menus.
From what I played, I can say Shiny is an example of pure platforming without any extra features. Some may like it, some may not. Personally, I feel it needs some revamping if Shiny is to succeed at getting a larger group of gamers interested. While very peaceful and non violent, younger children may get upset with the checkpoint system. The controls need some tweaking along with a change to the action sets for buttons to cool down from fire, an optional saved checkpoint system, fairer use of the shields, and a bug fix to level 10 for the cool down feature.
Shiny uses Unreal 4 and the levels look nice, but I feel like the level of detail is not quite up to graphical expectations for a game using Unreal 4. Not being able to use my controller to access the menus mid game is also disappointing. Perhaps after some updates and bug fixes this game will be more accessible to the general gamer crowd, but currently it’s not a game I’d recommend to most gamers. It’s quite a shame, really, because it feels like a great deal of work went into this game. If only it played as well as it looked from the store page.