In this reviewer’s opinion, any game that claims ‘funny faces’ as being a unique selling point in its advertising should be handled with caution, so without further ado let’s plunge into the realms of Shiny the Firefly.
You control Shiny, the titular firefly in an effort to save its tiny firefly children that were scared by a less-than cataclysmic event. You fly around with the control stick or by tapping where you want to go on the touch screen, all the while avoiding obstacles and tackling enemies with enormous seeds. If that sounds like traits of a smartphone or tablet game, that's because it is; this is a Wii U port of a game for multiple touch-screen platforms. The addition of physical controls is nice, as we're sure many Wii U owners often prefer to use them over the touch screen so that they can use their HD TVs for the full visual experience.
The gameplay is fairly robust, if a little lacklustre. You have to try and collect all of Shiny’s firefly babies and guide them to an inexplicably hospitable flower in order to beat the level; on the way you’ll have to avoid hazards such as enemies, water, and falling rocks. Speaking of rocks, one of the key mechanics is charging head-first into boulders in order to shift their position so that they break through impassable areas, block water sources or kill enemies. It doesn’t make a terrible amount of sense, and the reliance on the physics engine means that the process is a little slow, but it’s a nice little touch to have all the same.
You attract Shiny’s babies by lighting its abdomen and they'll begin to follow you around; you then have to guide them to the exit flower in order to beat the level. You can also turn the 'light' off, which leaves the babies where they were when you pressed the button, but this is a function that never really feels necessary — it may help, nevertheless, if you decide to scout out an area and don't want to risk failing the level.
If any of your gaggle of glowers happen to be subject to any one of the many hazards in the level, they’ll be killed and you won’t be able to get a perfect score for that level. Yes, the game uses one of the more common mobile gaming tropes of short, episodic experiences with a basic level of completion and a more challenging one. This is based purely on the number of fireflies you manage to retrieve, and often you’ll find clusters of them together, meaning that often the higher challenge isn’t that different from the standard completion conditions. If there were other collectables (besides coins) alongside the fireflies that you could grab to achieve a ‘better’ result, it might have improved the experience a little.
Visually this is actually fairly attractive. It’s nothing breathtaking, but it’s better than a lot of the inexpensive indie games on the eShop. It’s not quite “as beautiful as a Pixar movie” as we've seen suggested, but the environments are lively and well animated. It’s a shame that the same can’t be said for Shiny itself, as although the animations are smooth enough the character design is weirdly ugly; its incessant habit of pulling obnoxious ‘funny’ faces whenever anything happens can be mildly annoying for older players. It’s probably something that will appeal more to children, and that’s where Shiny is strongest.
The experience is fairly forgiving, but doesn’t fail to provide a challenge in certain areas; the intuitive touch screen controls mean that precision movement doesn’t have to rely on experience with control sticks. As such, this game is much more suited for children than adults, and given the art style and inoffensive gameplay that’s likely what the developers were aiming for.
Shiny the Firefly doesn’t offer anything groundbreaking or revolutionary, but it’s solid enough and enjoyable for the odd level or two. It seems to be a game that is more suited for children, who will likely have more time for the cartoonish grimaces that the character pulls, and the mostly smooth learning curve. The asking price is a bit steep, but if it’ll keep your kids occupied long enough to relieve that cluster headache, it’s worth every penny.