Reviews// Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom

Posted 10 May 2017 12:30 by
I took a break from playing Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom because I was finding myself to be increasingly infuriated by it. When I eventually returned I realised that I had to admit to myself that I just didn't like almost every aspect of the game.

I forced myself through the first ten hours of Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom by Enigami, an independent French developer, and published by Focus Home Entertainment. I did this so you don't have to. You play as a motley gang of cat-like creatures - there are multiple species but I ended up thinking of them as shorties and warrior-cats - plus a few characters that may have been humans that are trying to restore balance to the world... (The translation got so bad that I wish I could change the in-game text to the original French. I probably would have gotten more from it.)

A major part of the problem is that the majority of the dialogue is so round-about that you never feel like it accomplishes anything. These characters ask questions back and forth without providing any real detail about the world, the people or the actual conflict. Becoming invested in the game's narrative is a constant uphill battle. On the other hand it has some truly gorgeous comic book visuals that it uses in place of cutscenes. Whilst these were obviously a budgetary choice, they end up being a relatively lonely highlight.

Voice acting is all over the place and I don't just mean in quality. It changes from English to French to the games own made-up language with the drop of a hat and whilst I would normally put this down to a bug I don't think it is. The lack of language settings makes the bizarre language changes seem deliberate.

Mechanically, Shiness is a bit rough. The platforming is floaty and imprecise and the camera has a habit of veering off to one side when you're running in a straight line. Combat happens in a magically walled-off area around you. These barriers change colour to determine what kind of magic does... something or other. I ended up just hammering the basic attack button 99% of the time. Fights are in real-time and for the most part they work, even if magic becomes useless and telling how far away an enemy is can be problematic. The fights are always one-on-one, but you can set up instructions similar to Final Fantasy XII's Gambit system for your other teammates to follow to buff or heal you as needed and it adds a nice layer to the combat.

The music is abysmal, so much so that after an hour or less in each area I would turn the music down low just to try to save my sanity. This exposed the ambient sounds for each area which are okay - not amazing, not terrible. It would have worked well with the music if the music wasn't so irritatingly repetitive.

The character models are pretty good, even if I'm not a fan of the art direction. They still have plenty of detail with a good amount of variety among player characters and NPCs, however the environments are a mixed bag. The smaller areas are loaded with neat details, but the more open spaces suffer from rubbish draw distance for things like grass, which pops in a dozen meters ahead as you run across an area. There are parts of the environment that are textured in such a way that I thought they hadn't finished loading in.

Everything in Shiness combines to feel like a poorly ported game from the PlayStation 2 era. There is a lot of ambition behind this game, although I think ultimately the developers bit off more than they can chew. Hopefully they learn a lot from this and get a chance to make more games, just not ones like Shiness.

Pros:
+ Nice characters models and designs
+ Brings to mind the 3D platformers from the PS2 era...

Cons:
- ...But fails to fix many problems I had with PS2 era platformers
- Horrid, repetitive music
- Muddled voiced dialogue swapping languages
- Floaty controls

SPOnG Score: 4/10

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