The concept of free running has been used heavily in games over the last few years, with titles like Mirror’s Edge managing to almost perfect the art of making the player feel like a parkour wizard. It’s no surprise that it’s so popular; free running looks incredibly cool and it lends itself well to platforming style gameplay.
Rising Islands is the latest title to focus its gameplay on twitch-based free running – in fact, it’s pretty much the only gameplay mechanic with the game being free of any combat whatsoever. For the most part the platforming works well and is enjoyable, though unfortunately Rising Islands felt so underwhelming in almost every other facet of the game that it’s a little difficult to recommend.
The game tells the story of Hairo, a young adventurer who gets tasked by two little flying creatures to save the world from the super villain known only as… Boss. That’s right – Boss. It’s one of the best (ironically) and worst (literally) villain names I’ve ever seen, and it certainly sets a precedent for the quality for the rest of Rising Islands’ story.
The lacking story isn’t helped by the poor quality of the game’s cutscenes. The pacing is off and each scene felt like it was put together with very little thought. Worst of all, there didn’t feel like there was actually any progression in the story. Whilst there is dialogue and interactions between characters, it felt so pointless and didn’t really divulge any details into what exactly was going on. Why did Boss want to bring ruin to the world? What are the origins of Hairo? Whilst games don’t necessarily need in-depth story details, the way that Rising Islands tried to set up a cinematic feel left me disappointed in the lack of them.
Fortunately, Rising Island’s gameplay offers a much more enjoyable experience. The whole point of each level is to get from point A to B by working through a series of tricky and hazardous platforming sections. Thankfully Hairo is nimble, though the game does have its own unique gameplay dynamic that keeps you on your toes – you need to shift between dimensions to work your way around the environment.
There are two dimensions to switch between that have each been allocated their own colour – blue and red. If an object is marked with one of these colours, you can only interact with it whilst in the corresponding dimension; you’ll only be able to run across walls that are blue in the blue dimension, whilst obstacles that are red will only take form whilst in the red dimension and vice versa. You can switch between dimensions with a simple button press, which is handy seeing as the game often requires you to switch between them with haste as you work from obstacle to obstacle.
You’ll be wall running and jumping, making huge leaps with jump pads, dashing between platforms and grinding across long rails – Rising Islands really does test your manoeuvrability skills. It’s really satisfying though and having to switch between dimensions as you jump from a blue wall to a red wall and back to a blue wall offered some tense moments. There are hazards too with the likes of electric lasers testing your dimension shifting skills along the way, so you can expect to suffer plenty of deaths.
Whilst the platforming of the game is pretty fun, Rising Islands doesn’t really offer much else outside of it. It’s always simply a case of reaching the end of a level with no real puzzles or challenges to vary the experience up at all. There is the occasional level that’ll introduce a time limit, but even those offer nothing different from a gameplay perspective. You do learn new abilities as you progress, but they don’t actually change up the gameplay too much – in fact, the dash ability that you unlock quite early on actually allowed me to completely evade some of the game’s more trickier platforming segments. I didn’t really take advantage of it, but the fact that it was possible to skip sections of levels was a bit of an oversight by the developer.
Given Rising Islands focus on platforming and quick reactions it certainly required a decent control scheme. Whilst everything worked well for the most part (I’d definitely recommend using an Xbox 360 controller though), I noticed that sometimes the controls lacked precision. I’d feel like I had lined up a perfect jump off a wall only to plummet to my death down the endless clouds. It happened on more than one occasion and whilst I know that sometimes it might be owed to my own lacking skills as a gamer, for the most part it felt like more of an issue with the game’s controls. Thankfully you wouldn’t notice it too much, but I couldn’t help but to be frustrated at it with times – especially since the nature of the game punishes imprecision.
The game’s visuals look like an upscaled Playstation 2 game thanks to the polygonal surroundings, some dodgy textures and the lack of variety. However, the fact that everything is so colourful and vibrant does save it a little – I never felt like it ever looked outright ugly. It was a pleasant enough world to look at, but don’t go expecting a visual spectacle.
I managed to complete Rising Islands in under two hours, and that even included collecting every hidden crystal that was littered on each level. There’s nothing to really bring you back to the game after you’ve completed it, though each level does have a time trial that’ll let you try beating players around the world for the fastest completion times.
Rising Island’s biggest flaw is its lack of polish. Along with the issues I’ve brought up earlier in the review, the game would also glitch out on me with my character getting stuck in the environment or getting locked in a frame of animation, the sound would cut out for no reason, invisible walls would block movement even if the path was clear, there was a spelling mistake in the text – seriously, there were plenty of annoyances to be found throughout the game. Most disappointingly though is that if the developers managed to fix a lot of the bugs and polish the game up a bit, it could be a much more enjoyable experience.
It has potential to be a much better game and the developers could easily fix a lot of its issues in future patches, but as it stands Rising Island’s cons outweigh its pros. The platforming and dimension shifting is fun, but the sheer lack of polish within almost every other aspect of the game prevents it from standing out amongst the crowd of better quality platformers.
Developer: Lone Hero Studios
Publisher: SOEDESCO Publishing
Release Date: 02/08/2016