It's wonderful to see indie developers on Wii U find enough commercial success to produce more than one title for the platform, and two-man studio Dahku Creations has followed up June's Chubbins with a new family-friendly offering: Soon Shine. Our biggest criticisms of Chubbins were its torturous difficulty and lack of visual variety; Dahku has responded by making Soon Shine a feast of colour with gameplay that's easy to a fault.
In Soon Shine, you play as the sun and the moon — two sides of a creepy mask, and we're all in favour of games about creepy masks here at Nintendo Life. You use your sun-and-moon powers to fend off mischievous spirits attacking you; the sun is vulnerable to dark spirits, making bright spirits stop in their tracks, and vice versa for the moon. You juggle this Ikaruga-style light/dark dichotomy to survive wave after wave of invading spirits for a high score while they try to reach you and deplete your health gauge. There's a bit of depth, as squashing multiple spirits of the same colour in a row gives you combo bonus points.
It's not exactly like Ikaruga (or Chubbins), though, because Soon Shine is on the complete opposite end of the difficulty spectrum. Enemies come at you faster and in higher quantities the longer you survive, but it starts out so easily and scales up so slowly that it gets boring rather quickly. You can purchase items from the Token Shop to mix up gameplay, but these power-ups (like "Stellar Solstice" to restore your energy and "Nova Flare" that eliminates all spirits onscreen) feel utterly unnecessary when the game is so easy.
There are three modes: Standard, Purist – which doesn't allow items – and Timed, in which you must reach as high a score as possible in three minutes. Timed mode is the most fun of the three, simply because Soon Shine is so easy that the other two modes can last seemingly forever as you wait for the enemies to ramp up in difficulty. With the time limit, your focus is less on surviving and more on maximising your time with as many combos as possible.
Where Soon Shine shines is the aesthetic department. While Chubbins consisted of bland backgrounds and generic level assets, Soon Shine is full of bright colours for an almost cel-shaded look. Some pleasant piano melodies accompany your quest, making it a nice stress-reliever if you just want to unwind for some mindless fun after a long day of work. When you switch between the sun and the moon, the gameworld switches from day to night, adding some variety to the visuals; in addition, you can purchase new music tracks and backdrops like "Crystal Cave," "Cyberspace," and "Steampunk" from the Token Shop to spice up your life.
Soon Shine is controlled, meanwhile, entirely with the stylus: you tap on spirits to squash them, and you swipe the screen left and right to flip between sun and moon modes. It works well enough, but it makes it feel like yet another "tap all the things" affair to heap on Wii U's pile of similar eShop releases. This design philosophy treats the Wii U like a mobile device, and it doesn't quite work – this style suits the short bursts of pick-up-and-play gaming that people want on their smartphones as they ride the train to work, but while the Wii U GamePad offers a similar touch-based interface and the ability to play off-TV, it's still a home console. We'd bet that when many sit down with a home console they're looking for a slightly deeper, more involved experience than the sorts of games that flourish on the App Store. There is certainly a place for mobile-style games, but it's arguably not on Wii U.
Soon Shine is a visual leap from its predecessor Chubbins, but the gameplay has taken a turn for the childishly simple. It's technically sound with no glaring faults, incredibly cheap on the eShop, and could appeal to those who just want something quick and easy or younger, less experienced players; there are better alternatives elsewhere, but this isn't bad. It also makes us wish Mr. Shine and Mr. Bright from Kirby would get their own spin-off title.