I’m glad I’m not a firefly. I’m also glad I don’t have hundreds of helpless children, for that matter. Most of all, I’m glad there aren’t any spiders larger than me. But such is the life of Shiny the Firefly, whose meticulous love for his offspring will take him to the ends of the earth — or rather, the edge of the garden.
Shiny the Firefly, developed in conjunction between Padaone Games and Stage Clear Studios, features inventive gameplay you won’t find in other titles. It’s a combination of stealth and platformer that requires patience, precision and timing. But while the premise is solid, I felt the game could have been ironed out for a fuller and more complex experience.
The levels in Shiny the Firefly are labyrinthine areas filled with evil insects and dangerous environmental traps. Scattered throughout each level are a number of Shiny’s missing babies (despite being a firefly, Shiny isn’t too bright — he went and lost all his kids). They follow their daddy only if his rear is lit up; otherwise, they stay put. Shiny must dutifully navigate each maze, locate his baby bugs and safely lead them to the exit. If a baby is attacked — well, there’s no easy way to say this — it dies. Shiny is allowed the death of only so many of his babies before he is forced to restart the level.
Along the way Papa Shiny can collect coins, granting him the ability to knock out enemies with a tap on the GamePad. The loving invertebrate may also pick up seeds to launch at nasty critters — or he can plant one to grow a vine bridge. Shiny often needs to manipulate his environment by moving stones, stopping water flow or breaking down barriers before he can proceed. He can also hide among flowers to escape detection, a trick that is often necessary to keep your kids alive.
There’s nothing else quite like this game. The requirement to have your babies survive adds a layer of depth I haven’t experienced before. But the levels were often plain and unimaginative. There never was a puzzle that I struggled to solve, and the coins were always laid out in a path pointing me in the direction I needed to go.
A good example of level design that just misses the mark was the first boss battle. I was pitted against a horrific queen bee that fired bits of green slime at me (because that’s what bees do, right?). I had to dodge her attacks until a pebble appeared, which I would then pick up and toss right in her dumb bee face. But her attacks were few and far between; when I didn’t have a pebble there was nothing I could do. The end result was a lot of waiting around and occasional dodging. It reminded me of boss battles from Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, only slower and much less fun.
There was also little variety throughout the game. The same hazards cropped up again and again: falling water, wasps on guard duty, tiny spiders following a set path, and needle-nosed mosquitoes that speed forward like bullets. From beginning to end, those same elements were always there. Only occasionally did something new pop up, such as hungry fish (which are so hard to avoid, by the way).
That’s not to say Shiny the Firefly is a bad game. It’s quite the opposite. It’s an inventive game that was fun — and often frustrating — from start to finish. There’s a lot of replay value as well. In each level Shiny can earn three bonus stars for excelling in his mission: one for collecting all the coins, another for saving all the babies, and a third for racing through the level within a certain amount of time.
The graphics and art style are fun, bright and cartoony. Shiny has a variety of facial expressions to indicate whether he is elated, depressed, fearful or upset. All the animations are smooth and natural. Toss in beautiful views with expansive and layered backgrounds that look hand-drawn and you have a gorgeous eShop title. Although I will say many of the smaller details were hard to make out, but I don’t know if this was because I was sitting too far from the TV or because the game was made for mobile devices before being ported to Wii U. The soundtrack was unobtrusive and seamlessly fit each location, although I can’t seem to recall any of the music after finishing the game.
At the end of the day, when the fireflies come out, we can step back and look at the game for what it is. Shiny the Firefly is not perfect, but it is entertaining. It’s fresh and inventive, yet falls just short of being a classic. For $6.99, you’re left wanting about twice as much content; there are only three worlds in the game which took me about three hours to complete. But even that price can be justified by the one-of-a-kind gameplay offered by this parenting adventure.
Review copy provided by Logic Activity