Vector Unit’s Shine Runner is out to make gamers believe that smuggling goods such as tobacky, snake oil, that oh-so precious moonshine and “peter pep” is indeed worthwhile and almost fulfilling. From running through shacks to evading those wretched cops, Shine Runner is out to have gamers’ hearts race– if only for a short while. Is living a life as a rebel smuggler in the deep Bayou worth it? Hit the break to read the review and find out for yourselves.
The premise of the game is quite simple: grab your souped up boat, pile up money and acquire illegal goods from 6 different locales/shops. You start off the game with a mere $500 and as you complete each locale, you’re given a small bonus of money which you will then use to buy goods your mother would not approve of. Among the goods are crawdads, catfish, peter pep, gator tails, snake oil, tobacky and of course moonshine. All of this is done in a matter of 10 days.
There’s plenty of incentive to stop at each locale and shop too. Every one of them have money bags scattered in the area, giving you a nice means of being able to build up your stock of illegal goods. As you start the first couple of days in each locale, the bonus money bags and completion bonuses are relatively small. Move to the later part of the campaign and you will see $50 to $100 bonus money bags and huge completion bonuses to stock up on as much inventory as you can buy. The prices of the goods fluctuates too. One day you may find catfish and gator oils at dirt cheap prices and another day you may find prices for both triple or even quadruple. So gamers will have to be smart about what cargo to buy and to sell— especially when some goods and commodities are in high demand, causing obvious inflation.
There’s no buying a new boat, no upgrading your current boat or racing against others. It’s just you and the against the clock trying to grab as many goods as possible— all in the name of being the best smuggler in the land.
The graphics are just flat-out stunning. You can just tell there was so much effort and energy put in to make the game look visually appealing and look comparable to a game on a PSP or DS. Heck, it might even rival some console or PC games— that’s how good the graphics are. When you first start to play the game, you’ll immediately notice how fluid and smooth the graphics are. There’s never a drop in the frame rate, despite the vast amount of detail in the various locales/shops. Moreover, there’s so much color and detail seen during gameplay. You can immediately notice the fan spinning on the fanboat, see the birds flying through the air, find various pieces of wood breaking up into bits upon impact as you hit them and watching those darn cops fly after you run them over. The game ran buttery smooth on my Motorola Atrix 4G, which of course has a Tegra 2 chip built-in. Android users with mid-level to lower-end phones need not worry though as the game will run comfortably on any Android with Froyo or higher.
If there’s one minor nitpick it’s some slight pixelation with the trees and shrubs in the background. When approaching a wall in the game and coming up close to a tree or shrub, I noticed some slight distortion and some jagged lines. It’s not major and certainly not a deal-breaker, but it’s still something of note.
The audio is almost as good as the graphics. You’ll find in the actual menu there’s one subtle music track looping, which is intended to get you in the Dixie state of mind. While there’s only a few dixie tracks looping throughout the gameplay, it’s more than enough to pump you up for the brief action in each shop/locale. Speaking of the audio in the gameplay— it’s actually quite impressive how Vector Graphics has squeezed all the content into the game. The actual sound of the engine is low, but it’s loud enough to where you can hear it distinctly from the other boats treading in the water. Moreover you can hear the cool effects such as splashing of the water, breaking of the wood, police sirens and even a few wisecracks here and there (such as someone screaming “watch out for them gators!). Everything sounds crystal clear and adds to the overall ambiance of the game. Very impressive indeed.
Once mastered, the controls are intuitive and straight-forward. Learning the controls may be another story for some. There’s two ways to steer your boat: touch controls and tilt. I personally didn’t like either initially because I thought this game was a pick up and play type game. The tilt function is of two extremes– too sensitive or not sensitive enough. I found myself crashing into walls or hitting objects inadvertently when using the tilt function— even with the ability to adjust the sensitivity. The touch controls function is probably what most of you will end up using. Using a swiping motion with your thumbs, you are able to steer your boat left and right. The swiping motion felt most comfortable for me— not too stiff, yet not too sensitive either. It’s fairly easy and straightforward trying to maneuver around objects and especially execute those great jumps throughout the gameplay. Really the controls are just a matter of preference to you. Once you practice with the controls over and over, you’ll be running over chickens, gators and outrunning the cops in no time.
The actual gameplay is fun, but quickly becomes repetitive. As mentioned previously, you’re not racing against other computers, you certainly don’t race against other human competitors and there’s a limited number of shops/locales. It doesn’t help either that each of the shops/locales take no more than 50 – 55 seconds to complete. Multiply that by “10 Days” to complete a campaign and rack up your goods and it’s roughly 5 to 6 minutes to basically complete a game. Moreover, there’s no incentive throughout the game. It would have been nice for the game to have included add-ons such as a boat modifications or unlocking new shops/locales. Essentially, you are playing a game against yourself trying to rack up as much money and goods as you can and trying to outdo your previous totals. Of course you can save your personal records on Open Feint and try to chase the game’s achievements, but the achievements aren’t worthwhile in my opinion. It’s a shame too because with the fast-pace of the gameplay it would have made a heck of multiplayer experience or at the very least, a game worth sitting down and playing regularly in single-player mode. Don’t get me wrong folks— the gameplay is addictive and fun, but only for a short time and you’ll quickly find yourself yearning for more.
Shine Runner is technically one of the best games available on Android, period. It has graphics to scream for, a solid audio soundtrack and great controls (once mastered). The only thing that’s making me reluctant to recommend this for the everyday gamer is the fact the actual gameplay is so limited. Stocking up your boat with illegal goods is fun at first, but what else is there that will warrant gamers’ attention? Sadly… there’s not much else. If you don’t mind the game being limited and repetitive, do give it a shot. After all, which other game allows you to run over gators, outrun cops and stock up on that sweet, sweet shine? You can find it in the Android Market today for a mere $2.99.