Rise & Shine is a run and gun shooter set on Gamearth, a video game inspired planet that’s under siege from an evil race of Space Grunts from the planet Nexgen. You take on the role of Rise, a young hero who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time when he witnesses the death of the Legendary Warrior and takes on the role of the keeper of Shine – a powerful gun that grants the bearer the ability to infinitely respawn. It’s up to Rise to take Shine to the King of Gamearth to try and find a way to save the world from the threat of the Space Grunts…
In honesty, the story of Rise & Shine could feel a little underwhelming. Whilst it’ll keep you entertained and there are some great comic book style cutscenes, it never goes into a great amount of depth with certain character’s motivations left a little under-developed. I was never bored seeing the game’s story progress, but there was so much potential for it to offer more than it did. It built a world and populated it with interesting characters; it’s just a shame that these characters never really had a meaningful role to play.
Despite the somewhat lacking story though, it’s difficult to not be impressed with Rise & Shine from the start thanks to how spectacular the game looks. I’ve always been a fan of hand-drawn graphics in video games, but Rise & Shine takes it to the next level with colourful environments that are simply bursting with detail and rich with personality. There are no barren grounds to work through with every location in the game full of beautifully crafted sights to see – what’s better is that almost every thing you do see in the environment is a nod to another video game.
Being a life-long gaming fan that has played a LOT of video games, spotting all of the references to other titles and little Easter eggs was one of the most enjoyable aspects of Rise & Shine. Seriously, it felt like wherever I was in the game there was always some nod to another video game to see – be it something as subtle as Flappy Bird flying away with a group of birds in the background, or something a bit more obvious like the resemblance the Legendary Warrior shares with Link from ‘The Legend of Zelda’ or maybe even the Space Grunts that are clearly inspired by the COGs from ‘Gears of War’ (even their leader has Marcus Fenix’s trademark soul patch). That’s not even all of it either, with tiny little details littered everywhere. It’s great – spotting these references actually became a core part of the experience for me, the little nods bringing a smile to my face in between blasting enemies apart. Most importantly though was that it felt like a homage as opposed to a parody, with the developers clearly giving a respectful tribute to the video games that inspired them instead of openly trying to mock them.
The game follows a traditional run and gun formula with simple shooting mechanics that are assigned to the right stick and trigger. There are basic platforming mechanics too, such as an improvised double jump as well as a quick dash to get out of tricky situations. You’ll need it too, especially since the game doesn’t give you too much in the shape of HP. It’s typically one shot and you’re out, so avoiding enemy gunfire is vital. There are basic cover mechanics in the game too with small obstacles littered around levels that you’re able to shield yourself behind, allowing you to poke your head out momentarily to take quick shots at your enemies. You’re protected from enemy fire when behind these obstacles, plus they’re fairly durable too so you’re safe for awhile.
Rise & Shine’s gunplay is simple but solid. You do unlock various upgrades like the remote controlled bullet and the electric bullet, but in honesty you won’t really find that you’ll need to use them much outside of the moments where the game forces you to. It’s a shame because the game has a big focus on Shine and the extra powers that it gets, yet it was typically easier just to keep blasting enemies away with normal gunfire. The puzzles where you do need to use them are neat, but it is a shame they couldn’t have felt a bit more substantial during the simple run and gun moments of the game.
Speaking of puzzles, Rise & Shine brings a change to the standard run and gun formula with an extended emphasis on puzzle solving. It’s a neat addition, especially when you consider that the genre isn’t typically one to have you scratching your head. Some of these puzzles will really stump you too, especially when you’re having to try and use a variety of Shine’s powers at the same time – it really shows the levels of depth to the game that aren’t always apparent when you’re simply shooting enemies to pieces. There are even a few simple mini-games to compete in, adding an extra layer of challenge to the game that always keeps things varied and enjoyable.
Rise & Shine won’t take you long to complete, with my playthrough of the game lasting barely over two hours. I’d be remiss not to say that I wanted the game to last longer, though the difficulty spike that came with the last level of the game almost did enough to put me off. Whilst Rise & Shine keeps things pretty challenging throughout (even with its infinite respawns and plentiful checkpoints), it really takes things up a notch towards the end. Don’t get me wrong, I love a tricky scenario in a game, but it was so overwhelmingly difficult that I felt like the level was intentionally designed to frustrate the player. There were too many cheap shots thrown in, making it feel like more of a chore to play through the last level than a satisfying finale.
The same could be said for other parts of the game though, with Rise & Shine’s levels often adopting a ‘trial and error’ feel to them. There were plenty of occasions where I’d die because I didn’t expect something as opposed to it actually being something difficult to overcome. Whilst this is fine in design (and actually kind of ties in well with the respawning that Shine offers) I would’ve preferred that the game spent more time challenging your skill as opposed to your awareness. It’s a small bugbear though and not one that put me off the game, but it could feel a little cheap.
I had a good time playing Rise & Shine, even if the difficulty spike towards the end of the game did drive me up the wall. It did plenty to frustrate me at times, but did nothing that tarnished my overall experience or that would make me think that it’s anything but an enjoyable game.
It looks fantastic, the gunplay is satisfying, the puzzling shows a level of depth that isn’t always apparent in this genre of game, whilst the constant nods to past video games kept a smile on my face. It isn’t the longest adventure you’re going to take part in, but it’s certainly one worth having.
Developer: Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team
Publisher: Adult Swim Games
Release Date: 13/01/2017
Format(s): Xbox One(Reviewed), PC