If you think “Shiny,” you should either think of (A) a slang word from the Firefly universe used to denote something pleasing, or (B) the development company that created Earthworm Jim.
You may be one of the unlucky few whose only understanding of Shiny Entertainment came from the regrettably subpar Matrix games, but rest assured that there was indeed a time when Dave Perry’s studio pumped out a few truly fun games. Wild 9, a 3D side-scroller where the hero uses a space-lasso to torture and murder his enemies, is one of these games.
Hit the jump to see Shiny’s bastard child of sidescrolling.
The preliminary advertisements for Wild 9 included the line (and I’m summarizing, because it was nine effing years ago), “Who pissed off the guys at Shiny?” The implication of the marketing was that Dave Perry, producer of the friendly Earthworm Jim games, had decided to make a much darker and more malicious side-scroller with Wild 9 than the company had ever produced before.
This is almost entirely untrue. Wild 9 is a cartoony romp, full of innocuous violence and sometimes awful, sometimes hilarious one-liners by the surfer-dude hero, Wex.
Basically, the story goes like this: an Evil Alien Robot Thing has laid waste to the galaxy. Only nine rebels in the entire universe have the power to stop him (the titular Wild 9), and their leader, Wex, has to travel from planet to planet to collect them. Each member of the nine has a special power they can give to Wex: one character is an indestructible human bomb, another is a living battery, and so on.
Wild 9 is a 3D side-scrolling platformer with action elements. While the game is rendered in full 3D, you can only move within two dimensions (the freefall stages, which I will get to in a moment, notwithstanding).
What really sets Wild 9 apart from other action platformers is Wex’s main weapon, the RiG, and the puzzles that result from its implementation. The RiG is, as described earlier, sort of a laser-lasso type thing: imagine a grappling hook mixed with Indiana Jones’ whip mixed with a crane arm mixed with a Ghostbusters proton pack, and that’s the RiG. The RiG can be used to pick up and move pretty much anything in the game world, including enemies. After picking up an enemy, there are literally dozens of ways to kill it using the RiG: you can smash him against the floor or wall until he breaks, you can chuck him into a moving fan, you can throw him into fire, and you can even suspend him in front of you as a sort of human shield: enemies will fire rockets at you, and you can use your hostage to block the projectiles.
And while the RiG is often fun simply for violence’s sake (hence the tagline, “Torture your enemies”), it also lends itself to some cool puzzles. Come across a spiked pit that you can’t cross? Just grab some bad guys with the RiG, impale them on the spikes, and create a human bridge. Need to stop that enormous, twirling fan so you can jump across it without getting sliced and diced?
Wedge an enemy between the blades, stopping the fan momentarily. There are many puzzles like this all throughout the game — and, occasionally, the boss fights require use of the RiG as well. The RiG implementation puts Wild 9 in a really interesting place, gameplay-wise: it’s got the gratuitous violence of modern fare, but the puzzle elements the RiG allows gives it a distinctly old-school feel.
Speaking of old-school feel, Wild 9 also includes one of Shiny’s trademarks: the “tube” level. In Earthworm Jim, it was a tube race through space. In MDK, it was a steam riding level. In Wild 9, it’s a freefall. All three games share the same basic level idea: the character is on rails, speeding through an enclosed space.
The player must simultaneously keep his speed up, whilst killing enemies that appear from below. In Wild 9, Wex using his RiG to thrash enemies into the sides of the tube as he falls. Not to mention — and keep in mind that I am not making this up — with each kill, Wex tells progressively more detailed yo mama jokes.
After one kill: “Yo mama!”
After two kills: “Yo mama’s mama!”
After three kills: “Yo GRANDmama’s mama!”
Why You Probably Haven’t Played It:
Wild 9 was old-school even at the time of its release: the PSOne was beginning to move away from side-scrollers into true 3D territory, and Shiny’s popularity was just beginning to wane. In 1998, Shiny’s biggest hit (Earthworm Jim) was already four years old, and their subsequent attempts at success such as MDK and Sacrifice were generally well-recieved, but never helped Shiny escape the stigma of being “that one company that made Earthworm Jim.”
Not to mention that Wild 9 is, from a graphical standpoint, pretty ugly no matter what generation you’re talking about. Characters are blocky, textures are muddy, and it’s extremely difficult to differentiate one enemy from another. But if you’re the kind of person who would actively seek this game out anyway, it’s not really going to make a difference.
You can find it for less than 7 dollars on eBay (shipping included). That’s less than a Blockbuster rental. If you’re looking for something weird and different and you’ve got some cash to spare, it wouldn’t kill you to check it out.