This review was written after playing a review copy of Shiny on PC provided by 1C Company. OmniGamer’s writers happily give their honest opinions despite such acts of generosity, though appreciated.
Shiny is the kind of game that does everything possible to be special. It’s not enough to simply be a platformer for developer Garage 227. They wanted to make an experimental platformer with a look and feel all its own. There are some interesting ideas, but playing this game shows that not all interesting ideas are inherently engaging in practice.
Shiny opens with an in-engine cutscene of robots preparing a spaceship for launch. Supplies are loaded up, the gas tank is full and everything seems to go off without a hitch. But during the mission, something goes wrong on the ship’s systems and the rest of the maintenance crew have short circuited. All except one, that’s you as Kramer 227, whose job is to bring the staff back online and quickly troubleshoot before things get worse.
I would like to say the beginning inspired confidence but it was more a signal of what was to come. On the one hand, the art direction has to be applauded for making various shades of dull grey look surprisingly serene and the robot designs hit a great mix of both humanized and expressive as well as grimy and practical. Not to mention it was a cutscene that appreciated environmental storytelling and communicated everything it needed to without a single line of dialogue. But during the entire opening any sense of wonder or quiet glee was undercut by technical issues such as odd sound mixing and editing, texture tear and some odd character animations.
Each level is straightforward. You run and jump from left to right while avoiding various environmental hazards like falling debris or malfunctioning conveyor belts, all while keeping an eye out for deactivated robots. There are certain set pieces like chase levels where you have to run to the end before some calamity eliminates you, But, for the most part it’s running, jumping and searching on your way to the exit.
As far as platformers go, Shiny has a solid concept and should be a handy time-waster. However, there are some problems. First, there are collectible batteries sprinkled across each level, similar to coins or rings, except these batteries are crucial for charging up an energy bar that also acts as the health bar. The energy bar drains when walking, jumping and even getting hit by attacks. It even pulls energy when using any tools you need to get through certain environmental hazards. As a result, it’s entirely possible to die by several mistimed jumps or even one step away from a checkpoint. This happened to me a few times, making it clear that the energy bar is to be carefully managed. Then there are the checkpoints themselves that keep track of your limited number of lives. If you lose all of them, the level must be restarted from the beginning, which draws from the lives system of retro games. While this is a nice concept, in action it is just annoying. As far as design goes, it feels like Shiny wants to encourage deliberate jumping and caution. To the level design’s credit there aren’t any cheap deaths by leaps of faith to be found from a purely environment design perspective. However, the jumping physics are remain difficult. Sticky, clunky, and unclear distance gauging feels more anxiety-inducing than intuitive. It leaves Shiny feeling rather unpolished. If it wasn’t for jumping that feels like a lead weight is tied around your ankles the levels would be alright.
This compounds a few other issues. The end-result screen pushes you to find all batteries and robots in each level, which encourages exploration and paying attention to your surroundings. The energy bar resource management and limited lives makes any wasted effort feel harsh, which is counteractive to the emphasis on item collection. An argument can be made that the game is encouraging efficiency, using memory over each attempt at each level to perfectly run it. Instead, the imprecise mobility mechanics feel more like a punishment than a challenge. This is to say nothing of texture tear, inconsistent hit detection and frame-rate problems that make the problematic gameplay even worse. There is also a nonsensical super-mode available after rescuing enough robots but it is virtually useless. It is meant to make you invincible from any damage but it lasts maybe three seconds and the only means of damage is falling rocks and maybe the occasional electric discharge.
Garage 227 made a good effort in developing Shiny, but that is where the positive notes end. It’s a game that came close to being something you can lazily play through on a rainy day with its short five to six hour run time, and credit must be given to Garage 227 for wanting to make a positive and optimistic game with cute robots helping each other. However, its half-formed ideas, technical issues and sticky controls leave a lot to be desired. It’s not an altogether terrible experience, just a disappointment given that there are good ideas present.