I have always been a big admirer of modifications. The Remedy developed Max Payne games are one of the few games that are relatively easy to mod. Nonetheless, many of these mods are still an impressive feat today considering the resources available at that time. Some even managed to change the game’s core gameplay and rules without altering the source code.
Developers (cq. modders) today have much more tools to their disposal. For example, the powerful Unreal 4 engine (powers games among which Gears of War 4) is free to download and thus requires minimal financial investment. Indie studios are getting more and more recognition because their projects are quickly increasing in quality and often carry a unique style or concept. At the same time, new tools and higher expectations raises the bar for other indie studios. This brings us to the review of Shiny, an Unreal 4 powered indie game title.
A robot’s life.
Shiny is a 2.5D platformer (much like New Super Mario Bros.) developed by Brazilian independent studio Garage 227. The game centers around friendly robot Kramer 227 and his quest to rescue his robot friends. Your objective: Build a spaceship to leave the doomed planet Aurora before it crashes into the sun. I actually had to look up the story of the game. The intro cinematic is a very poor attempt at introducing the player to the narrative and the absence of any voice over or spoken dialogue only underlines this issue. To make matters worse, the animations in the cinematics are all but fluid and feel like they are from a different era. All in all, it failed to leave a good first impression.
Animations in the game itself are much better and as a result it also plays OK too. Either with a keyboard or with a controller. Both input methods are supported. Shiny relies heavily on perfect planning and careful thinking as the controls can sometimes feel unresponsive. Of course there’s your typical run and jump type of gameplay (as what we came to expect from platformers), but the game brings a surprising and refreshing mechanic to the table.
Energy management. Kramer 227 is carrying a battery that needs constant charging. You’ll find energy throughout the world and the frequent checkpoints allow for a re-charge. However, besides finishing the level, one of the game’s goals is to find and rescue your robot friends. To rescue them, you need to “activate” them which require power. This means that if you’re low in power it might be better to find a checkpoint first and then backtrack to your buddy to save him. Your battery slowly depletes over time and the hazardous environment can speed it up. If your battery is fully depleted, you’ll lose a life and restart at the most recent checkpoint. Lost all lives? Then it’s game over and you’ll have to restart the entire level.
Hasta la vista, baby.
The game is relatively small. It contains 20 levels (approximately 6 hours of gameplay) and at this moment of writing costs around 15 dollars in the Steam store. A hefty price if you ask me. There’s no real replay value (there’s a level select option to replay a particular level) and leaderboards or multiplayer is also absent. Personally, I feel like the game’s value does not justify its pricing. As I’ve mentioned earlier, Shiny is being powered by the Unreal 4 engine. An engine that is well known for its photo realistic graphics. Don’t expect any of that in Shiny though. The game’s graphics are nice but simple. It does have great lightning and cool particle effects (JETPACK!) but also some low texture work.
In conclusion, Shiny failed to impress. Its mediocre value and experience do not justify its high price. If you’re a (veteran) fan of platformers, I’m confident you’ll enjoy your time with Shiny. Especially if you can look past the clunky cinematics and sometimes unresponsive controls. The energy management mechanic and hazardous environments will make sure the game stays challenging. But I can’t shake the feeling this could have been a more polished experience. Right now it’s like a mediocre mod of a better game.