By Chris Picone, 18 February 2023
I was fortunate enough to play Joon Shining waaaaaaaay back (2 years ago!) when it first released in Early Access under the title Mage Drops. If you also played it way back then, I'm here to tell you to jump back in and give it another go. It's got 8 worlds now, the graphics have improved, it's got a slick new soundtrack, they've added tons of polish: It's come a long way!
Joon Shining features some very colourful 3d graphics that would look at home in any platformer. It also features a stunning soundtrack, full of "intonation" (I only it's called that because the developer told me in an interview) - anyway, it fits perfectly, and works well to set the mood for each world.
Joon Shining does feature a whimsical story but I found it a little hard to engage with. In any case, the actual golfing is the star of this show. Interestingly, I found that Joon plays more like a puzzle platformer than a golf game. Consider: In every golf game I've ever played, you take aim, judge the power required, factor in the wind, and take your shot. Rinse, repeat. Joon Shining is three dimensional - but vertically rather than horizontally (most of the time), so there's no need to aim. And you have direct control over the arc of your shot rather than trying to guess how much power to apply like a chump. Better yet, since you're a wizard rather than a golfer, so you also get to exert your powers to control the ball's momentum, pushing it further or stopping it dead. But this ain't golf on easy mode. To win you need to make the impossible shot - using fire to burn obstacles, making trees grow, landing on clouds, sticking to some surfaces and bouncing off others. There's a huge array of mechanics and it gets pretty wild. There are a few odd design choices - the level progression probably isn't ideal for such a large and difficult game and the achievements aren't as well integrated as they might have been - but overall there's tons of variety and I love the core gameplay.
The hybrid nature of this game makes the target audience a little hard to pin-point. My best attempt to describe it is as a golf-themed puzzle game with platformer elements. If any of that interests you, I'd encourage you to give it a go. It's challenging but unique and pretty damn fun.