Game: Joon Shining
Genre: Action, Puzzle
System: Steam (Windows & macOS)
Developer|Publisher: Orchid of Redemption | Lamplight Forest
Controller Support: Yes
Price: UK £19.99 | US $16.99 | EU € 19,99
Release Date: February 17th, 2023
Review code provided with many thanks to The IndiEXP.
Joon Shining is a 2D golf game emphasising puzzle solving and relaxing gameplay. Recently ending its term in early access, Joon Shining is now ready for its full release. This is a very different take on 2D golf and if you’re willing to stick with its challenge, you may discover an experience that’s quite unique and rewarding when you succeed.
Saved the Dodo
Playing as a young sorcerer, you have been tasked with saving the dodo. To achieve this, you need to hit the eggs, which present as a spiritual ball, into a nest (or hole), causing a kinda creepy dodo to hatch. Turns out this concept feels pretty similar to mini-golf, placing many hazards in your way and platforms you need to navigate to make it to the nest. It certainly makes for a pretty good idea for a video game.
The game’s soundtrack is incredibly chilled and relaxing and feels like something you would want in the background when you’re studying or just to put you in a calm state. The graphics themselves add to the serene setting, with levels vibrant with detail set across eight worlds in the multiverse. Explore forests vibrant with plant life, a machine world that looks more peaceful than most settings with robotics and even the cosmos itself. Probably one of the nicer 2D golf courses I have played on in video games.
A Puzzling Game of Golf
Controls are very simple. Using the controller, you aim your ball with the analogue stick, giving you an idea of the ball’s trajectory. Once you hit the ball, you get a little wiggle room to manoeuvre it further. The ball can be dropped mid-flight, allowing you to place it on a specific platform. Once landed, the ball can even be rotated to help it travel a little further, which is very helpful to nudge it into the hole. Additionally, you have some control over elements in the environment, adding the more intricate puzzle aspects of the game.
The route to the nest is rarely linear or straightforward. Using the triggers on the controller will rotate platforms, spawn bushes to act as platforms or bounce off bubbles to shoot your ball off into unknown directions. The platforms you can activate are clearly indicated. Your ball also has a health bar; hitting it into spikes will cause it to lose a heart, deplete all three, and it’s back to the start.
Throughout the levels, you can also explore off the path to collect flying droplets, which, if successfully carried to the end of the level, will be banked and unlock future courses. Joon has it going on when it comes to puzzling and golfing, but things didn’t end up clicking with me as well as the game presented itself.
That Clicking Feeling
I liked the formula of Joon, but I struggled to click with the game’s mechanics making this an experience I’m not sure is for me. I would even go as far as to say it was pretty frustrating, which is very counter to the lovely music and graphics I experienced in the background. Let me try and explain.
The drop mechanic, which is essential to land on designated platforms, comes with a slow delay, which isn’t very helpful when going through a course you are unfamiliar with. Requiring you to almost predict when to use it. What often happens is that my ball would end up in an undesirable location or just in the water, probably where I spent most of my time playing this game. It was also a nightmare getting the ball to land precisely on moving platforms, usually taking so long to come to a halt the ball still ended up rolling off into the water.
The game feels like it would benefit from a button which slows down time to use this mechanic better. It wasn’t just the drop mechanic, though; the random environment elements you control, like the pulsing bubbles or landing the ball in fire to then ignite a bush, just led the ball projecting into unpredictable locations. Even with the guide button before you shot, the ball still didn’t always seem to end up travelling where I wanted it to, which for me was often back in the water and back to the checkpoint or even rebounding off the checkpoint itself.
With these frustrations, I found it difficult to progress through. You can back out and return to the course later, but you only replay old levels. Some form of level skip may have been very helpful in the tougher courses.
Stress shifted a little when I altered the game’s difficulty. When you start the game, you can choose to play Normal or Easy, each with a par limit. Then there’s Tourist mode which allows you to take your time and take as many hits as you want. Usually, I welcome the challenge, but I ended up enjoying the experience of Joon more when I could take my time. But the problematic controls still made it tough to stick with the experience. When I did finally get the ball in the hole, it really was quite the triumph after trying over and over for so long.
Conclusion – Shine on
Joon Shining is a pretty good puzzle game by design, but I found it stressful. I couldn’t get my ball to flow as well as it looks in the game’s trailer. Furthermore, I understood the challenge and the design the developers were going for, but it just failed to click with me. I loved the soundtrack and meditative look of the game, but that’s not how I felt playing it.
Joon Shining is unlike any golf game I have played, and I can see this being something players will enjoy if they’re looking for a different take on the genre and are up for the challenge it presents. I highly recommend downloading the free demo and giving it a go. If it clicks, show a budding indie developer some support. If you give Joon Shining a chance, it may shine a light on your gaming night.
Final Verdict: I Like It