A shiny new adventure awaits!
Without dwelling on it too much, picture in your head a robot. Now, because of pop culture in media and video games, there’s a pretty decent chance that the robot which you have just envisioned differs from that which someone else reading this envisioned. Appearances don’t much matter for this exercise, though’ what I’m really after is function. What does that robot do? The dictionary definition of a robot is “a machine capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically, especially one programmable by a computer”. Does that sound about right for most of you? Was the robot that came to mind merely some sort of autonomous tool? It probably was for most of you, and that’s okay. Still, I’m sure that there are some of you out there who imagined a robot that was less of a “something” and more of a “someone”. The robots in this day and age are definitely just means to an end, but there may someday exist a society where robots have identities of their own. And, if and when we do hit that point, how will we end up treating said robots? Will we see them in a light that is a bit more personal or, because of their origin, will we still merely see them as tools albeit with a few “new features”? Are robots even capable of “possessing a heart”? Well, according to developer Garage 227 Studios’ latest game Shiny, they most certainly are!
Shiny‘s story is short-and-sweet, with an equally short-and-sweet protagonist to match and takes place in a future where mankind has begun to rely much more heavily on the drones of self-sufficient robots which have been created. Protagonist Kramer 227 is one such robot, and has happily been carrying out his job helping collecting and distributing batteries. While the day started out normally enough, things soon took an unfortunate turn. It seems as though Aurora, the planet from which they have been extracting energy, has hit its limit and has begun to die. What’s worse is that humanity has completely abandoned the planet already, leaving the robots to fend for themselves and, ultimately, shut down forever. Seeing all of the robots around him starting to shut down, Kramer 227 takes it upon himself to save his robo-pals and see to it that they all escape from Aurora.
The makeup of Shiny‘s gameplay is comprised entirely of platforming mechanics, giving it a more streamlined feel due to the fact that it almost entirely relies upon the player’s timing and skill as opposed to throwing in a plethora of ridiculous gimmicks. Because of this, Shiny manages to invoke a pretty decent sense of nostalgia within those who have grown up with such classics as Super Mario Bros., and the like. The levels themselves are designed decently overall, offering a level of difficulty that slowly and appropriately rises from middling to a enjoyably-challenging. Although Shiny’s level of difficulty doesn’t leave much to be desired, the folks over at Garage 227 seemed to be keen on making sure that players of all skill levels enjoyed themselves and added three levels of difficulty (which also adds an extra element to the game’s replayability).
The levels themselves are what I would call on the positive side of standard. While most of the levels rely completely upon the platforming skills of the player, Shiny does a good job of throwing in quirks that add unique elements to certain levels, without truly deviating from its platformer formula and include switches, moving platforms, and stage hazards such as falling rocks and whirling fan blades. While a nice fit for the gameplay itself, many of the additional level elements are a tad lacking in creativity; a bit of a letdown considering how endearing that they managed to make the protagonist despite him essentially being a metallic orb with arms and legs. The way in which some of the stage elements worked also seemed a bit unrefined. While things definitely worked as they should most of the time, I occasionally found myself encountering such strange events as getting thrown across a level by touching a fan blade, or getting “crushed”to death merely by bumping my head against a moving part of the stage despite clearly having plenty of wiggle room. Fortunately, nothing was ever so unsteady as to ever reach the point of breaking the game, but it’s certainly a bit of a letdown to almost finish a level only to get killed by something that, I assume, wasn’t actually supposed to happen.
Following true platforming tradition, Shiny also offers plenty of collectible goodies and optional paths throughout each level. Collectibles come in two variants; batteries and robots. Scattered throughout each level is a multitude of batteries, the common collectible of the game, picking up batteries serves not only as an optional goal within each level but also slightly replenish Kramer 227’s battery life (a mechanic that we’ll soon get into) as well. The second kind of collectible is more rescue mission than it is collecting. Within each of Shiny‘s levels are up to 4 inactive robots that Kramer can spend a little of his own energy to activate. Although the gleeful reaction from the rescued robots is definitely incentive enough to warrant rescuing them, your fallen robo-brethren will also drop a special battery upon being rescued. After collecting two of these special batteries, players can make use of a one-time ability that will grant them temporary invincibility, as well as temporary infinite battery life. While neither collectible is actually necessary in order to complete each level, they certainly up the fun level quite a bit. Collectibles are, in my opinion, half of the fun when it comes to platformers; Shiny is no exception.
Finally, let’s move onto Kramer 227 himself. While Kramer’s primary controls consist of “run” and “jump”, our robotic protagonist does have a few quirks to him. First and foremost is the way in which his HP works. Like many characters in many games, Kramer has an HP bar. Run out of HP and you die; I’m sure everyone’s aware of how that works. The interesting thing about Kramer’s HP however, is that it’s actually a representation of his battery life. Because of this, Kramer’s HP doesn’t just deplete form getting hit by something. Rather, much like how electronics are in the real world, performing any sort of action, running, jumping, opening doors, and so on, will “damage” Kramer. Because of this, players need to keep an eye on how much juice Kramer has less. When I realized what was going on with the battery life I was a bit concerned at first, asking myself if this was going to make everything within the game a huge (and largely un-fun) time crunch. Fortunately, this wasn’t the case at all. Rather, the battery depletion ended up being a gentle push. It helped keep me focused on completing the level (I have a bad habit of unnecessarily exploring every nook and cranny in games like this), reminding me that Shiny wasn’t one of those games that hid items in dozens of hidden locations throughout each level.
Kramer’s second unique quirk is more like a set of quirks. As you progress through the game, Kramer will pick up a few nifty abilities which will allow for him to better navigate through some of the tougher spots. Rather than getting crazy jet boosters or high-powered guns, the power-ups within Shiny are primarily based upon survival and bestow such abilities as being able to cool yourself off (in order to avoid over-heating, which leads to instant death), or the ability to produce a shield that protects Kramer from certain stage hazards (such as falling rocks). While I like these additions, I do find their use to almost be a bit too risky at times. Remember when I said that doing pretty much anything will drain Kramer’s battery life? These new gadgets are no exception. While I understand that extra features means extra energy output, some of these abilities drain your battery a little too quickly and leads you to wonder if you would just be better off taking a hit instead of playing through a part correctly.
While Shiny‘s main draw should be the platforming action I’ve got to hand it to the game’s audio and visual, because they almost steal the show. The visuals within every level are honestly pretty breathtaking, not only adding an incredible amount of ambiance to the game but also helping to immerse players into a world that is both calming and lonely that really helps to show just how alone poor little Kramer 227 is throughout his heroic journey. Even when levels got a bit frustrating, I found myself wanting to press onward due to the fact that I just wanted to see more. It’s kind of an interesting drive for a game such as this, but I rather like it. The musical tracks accompanying the game are, of course, primarily ambient as well, featuring soft undertones and mild themes that help to compliment the levels themselves without ever really taking over (with the exception of a few cases). The only downfall is that things are, and I’m sure that this comes as a surprise to no one, pretty graphically intensive. If you want to make sure that you fully experience the aesthetics of Shiny if and when you play it (I’m going to preemptively tell you that you will), then make sure that your computer can handle it.
The game Shiny itself can be summed up pretty well by comparing it to its very own protagonist; a little inefficient and occasionally clumsy, but rather adorable and enjoyable overall. If you’re looking for 2016’s Most Epic Hardcore Platformer of the Year (there has to be some sort of award like that floating around) you might want to search elsewhere, but only because Shiny is attempting something that a lot of platformers don’t do any more. It shows that games can play like old, look like new, and be just fine while doing so. If you’re ever looking for a quick and fun platformer experience with a large dose of art, and even more heart, look no further than Shiny.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (Reviewed), Xbox One ; Publisher: 1C Company ; Developer: Garage 227 ; Players: 1 ; Released: August 30, 2016 (PC) ; ESRB: N/A ; MSRP: $12.99
“Full disclosure: This review is based on a review copy of Shiny given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.”