SHINE ON YOU CRAZY ROBOT!
Let me just start by saying that I am extremely on the fence about this game! Platform games were scorching star of my generation from the humble beginnings of Donley Kong, Pitfall, the legendary ying and yang of Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario to a 3-dimensional renaissance in Tomb Raider and Prince of Persia, even the going as modern as Uncharted, this wonderful yet simple medium brought so much joy and frustration into the hearts of so many gamers. Which is why Shiny tickles at my frayed and disgusting heartstrings in a number of sentimental and nostalgic ways but with every step forward takes two back. Developed and published by Brazilian team Garage 227, Shiny is a side scrolling adventure platformer that would catch the eye of bastions from a pixelized era but unfortunately isn’t much to look at.
Shiny introduces to a Kramer 227, a small robot that can only be described as Wheatley with limbs and R2-D2’s voice box. After the human race have abandoned the Planet of Aurora, which unfortunately is headed for the sun and have left all the automatons to fend for themselves and sit idly by for their impending doom, running out of power one by one. Luckily, our lad Kramer isn’t having any of this and with the help of the planets remaining energy and some eccentrically placed batteries and his comrades, who he must raise from the dead like some kind of Robot Messiah and sets out to power a spaceship to help him and his friends escape this condemned world. The premise here is pure and humble and makes you feel like you’re serving a purpose and really is the driving force behind your actions. I’m also a fan of its silent form of narrative, especially when it’s executed effectively so you the tale it’s telling is crystal clear which Shiny does fairly well.
The aesthetic that accompanies the story regrettably does do Shiny much justice however and goes through most of the game showing little grace from an artistic standpoint pretty much from the get go when the title screen comes in like a bull in the proverbial china shop as you load the game up. The in-game models look OK but have a stilted and twitchy motion to them (yes, I know that they’re robots!) but the unevenness of their movements really takes you away from the experience, as do the environments. Some of the backdrops and foregrounds help combat Shiny’s detriment and every now and then adds a deal of atmosphere to the levels but the rest of the time they lack life leaving you with a feeling of aimless existence from point A to point B. the mood lighting involved also makes for a burden at times, leaving you momentarily blind at some points. The games low resolution and ridiculous loading times that can either be quick as bunnies or leave you sitting there twiddling your thumbs for quite some time. Shiny is also kind of unimaginative and stinted in its animation. Kramer is as rigid in game as he is in cutscenes and the death animations lead little to the imagination also, for example when you’re crushed under a piston, Kramer simply falls to his knees and keels over whereas different ones for different deaths would have gone a long way. Also, much like the occasional ambience, Shiny’s music can also be one of the games highpoints on occasion but also one of the biggest hinderance. One point you are treated to an atmospherically electronic treat in one level only for it to transition boorishly into garishly loud up-tempo piece in the next which feels like a rather rude shock to the system, it also makes the cardinal musical sin of being in presented in very short loops.
Despite finding very little joy in Shiny’s presentation, its gameplay however managed to put a few ticks in the pro column. First off, its side scrolling platform style is highly reminiscent of how they worked when I were a lad in terms of its traits. The perils such as moving platforms, treacherous pitfalls, fire, falling rocks and high-speed razor sharp fans (?) are all there and are all introduced in a way where their patterns and threat are shown clear as they so when you mess up I is solely on the player. Though these qualities are rehashed and recycled almost constantly through all 20 levels, the layouts still offer a steady and fair difficulty curve which will challenge you and convinces you to continue of and try again because you know your goal is obtainable. The objective of finding your fallen comrades and helping rescue them from their fate offers a challenge in level exploration and takes me back to the good old days of Abe’s Odyssey and in my opinion adds a little charm to our little hero. Other mechanics such as jumping can take some getting used to, and you will eventually come to strategize each one you make because of the slickness of the motion and you can change your trajectory mid jump like the days of old but there are quite of few moments where your landing point is out of view and you’ll have to resort to leaps of faith, and using Kramer’s energy to revive other robots and opening doors adds some substance but is frustrating as hell when you die simply by opening a door, there is a nice little trophy you can achieve by spending the last of your energy by bringing another robot back though (Aren’t you nice?). There are also power ups you can collect through your playthrough however there are only three and they are introduced few and far between and only a couple of occasions where each one is really relevant.