There is something irresistible about anthropomorphic robots. It might be the faint sense of familiarity that locks onto our humanity and reels us in. When Brazillian developer Garage 227 decided to make a game starring one, they automatically joined a long, sci-fi lineage headed by R2-D2 and tailed by WALL-E. More recent works of art including Grow Home and Scrap Garden have definitely set a precedent for Shiny, Garage 227's debut 2.5D platformer which is a fresh release on Steam. While Shiny's narrative shares the structural similarity of saving a doomed planet, the experience distinguishes itself through classically inspired side-scrolling gameplay.
In a booming, energetic opening sequence dressed with heavy techno beats, Shiny paints a despondent picture of robots working slavishly in a frenzied effort to restore Aurora's power plant. Humans flee the scene, leaving the robots to fend for themselves, but their efforts prove unsuccessful as the planet plunges into darkness. A single robot, Kramer 227, rises from the figurative ashes to recharge his fallen companions, revitalise the ship battery and ultimately prevent the planet's demise. While the story doesn't delve into a particularly new territory, its message of non-violence, resilience and heroism is touching; It is perhaps emphasised best when coupled with the soundtrack as it transitions into beautiful, bittersweet piano melodies. The strength of the music/narrative fusion loses emotional impact as the game continues since it largely focuses on gameplay, however, this is also true of most classic platformers of yesterday. Shiny does come across as an atmospheric game initially, so I felt surprised when the story was revisited only through the saving robot mechanic and checkpoints and didn't feature any cutscenes. It seems to tread upon a curious middle ground between a pure platformer and the atmospheric variety, which makes sense considering its inspirations.
Shiny's control system will feel intuitive to both the modern PC and console gamer since it supports both keyboard and wireless Xbox controllers. Furthermore, the level design feels expansive and gives players lots of room for exploration, which is perfect because of the multiple layers of challenges presented. For the completionist gamer, there is a set amount of batteries to collect per level which help re-energise Kramer, as well as 4 robot friends to rescue in various (and often well hidden) locations. The general run and jump gameplay feels fluid and fun but is hindered somewhat by unresponsive controls. For instance, pressing the space bar to jump occasionally didn't register, and other times allowed Kramer to jump but a second or two after. This needs to be smoothened out to ensure tighter platforming, especially within levels with narrow gaps, flipping ledges, and ones where Kramer is being chased. Despite the hiccups, Shiny plays like a traditional platformer through and through. From the random assortment of obstacles including spinning blades and pounding machines to ascending/descending ledges that challenge players to plan their timing carefully, anyone who grew up with Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog games will be in their element.
Rather interestingly, Shiny's checkpoints only come with limited usage (maximum of 7 or so replays), so players are transported to the beginning of the level when their lives run out. This is a fantastic trade-off between hardcore old-school platformers without any checkpoints and current platformers, but doesn't always mesh well with the delayed controls and can make the overall gameplay feel repetitive. Post completion of each level, a rundown of all saved robot friends plus collected batteries, is displayed on a chart and gives players the opportunity to revisit the same level or continue onto the next. It's a nice sense of freedom more unique to modern platformers/games and leaves room to collect any missed items.
SOUND AND GRAPHICS
Musically triumphant, Shiny switches up its delivery between gentle piano recordings and fast-paced techno tracks depending on the mood of each level. As incongruous as the combination may seem, Neon Genesis Evangelion showed us how much exquisite passion and sensitivity could be formed by pairing technology with musical instruments. The art style has a pleasant, cartoon influence with lovingly rendered characters, and detailed, impressively crafted environments with the perfect amount of rusty metal chic.
Shiny is a game with strong potential to be a solid platformer but suffers from minor flaws in its gameplay. Experiencing lag between and particularly during levels often makes the difference between challenging and frustrating, but the well-calibrated difficulty curve and abundance of collectibles keep players motivated and entertained. The dynamic union of a beautiful instrumental soundtrack and the touching story also works well, and while not essential, the addition of further emotional ties to the game via cutscenes would have boosted immersion levels significantly. Overall Shiny is an engaging and conceptually impressive debut with a likable protagonist that lovers of sci-fi, robots, and 2D platformers will gravitate towards effortlessly.
|+ Evocative soundtrack||– Unresponsive controls|
|+ Challenging gameplay||– Frame rate delays|
|+ Pretty art style||– Long loading screen|