Having your hand held while trekking through a game has become the norm. You don’t usually have to think or try too hard to progress in a game when you have way-points that guide your every move, difficulty options that tend to range from very easy to slightly less easy and quick health regeneration. Rise & Shine attempts to bring back that core difficulty from older games, but fails to find the right balance between being challenging and downright unfair.
Our story follows a seemingly ordinary young boy named Rise who happens to come into the possession of the ultimate weapon Shine. It’s up to Rise to deliver Shine to the king of Gamearth and stop the invading
COGs Grunts from destroying the planet.
Rise & Shine does a poor job of giving your journey purpose or exposition. Only taking about 2 to 3 hours to complete, it doesn’t offer much in terms of storytelling that isn’t a callback or reference to popular video game franchises like Mario, Zelda or Gears of War.
I’m all for references and easter eggs, but when it takes the front-seat and the plot relies purely on satire, it detracts from the overall package and this is definitely the case here. The few bits of story that are original can be broken down to ‘go here and do that’ with no clear indication of why things are happening.
Combining a multitude of different genres, Rise & Shine’s core gameplay mechanics are possibly the best thing the game has going for it. Take Gears of War’s cover shooting, throw in some Contra platforming and add a splash of Touhou’s bullet-hell into the mix and out pops this game. Probably the neatest mechanic offered is the ability to maneuver shots in a sort of gravitational area. This maneuver ability helps you solve puzzles and take down bosses. I thoroughly enjoyed the trials that had you master this unique mechanic.
Through your journey, Shine gets a few upgrades that are crucial to completing the game. One upgrade allows you to shoot electricity shots which are effective against robots. Another is a grenade upgrade which helps you take down shielded foes and sticking bombs to surfaces to allow strategic explosions.
If it weren’t for the infuriating amount of enemies the game throws at you at once, the gameplay could have outshone the lackluster story. Being such a short game, Rise & Shine tries to artificially lengthen the time it takes to complete the game by overwhelming you with enemies and obstacles.
This becomes so apparent in the last chapter that I had to put the game down for a bit due to the unfairness. Here I am about to lay the last shot on the final boss and from seemingly out of nowhere, two shots fly in-frame and kill me while I’m maneuvering my shot. As I’ve mentioned in prior reviews I love a good challenge, but I don’t enjoy when developers use difficulty as a scapegoat for length.
Visually speaking, Rise & Shine looks absolutely breathtaking at 1440p and 96 frames-per-second. Everything from the backgrounds to the environments and characters look so clean and crisp, it’s mesmerizing. Making use of extravagant particle effects and parallax foregrounds, it’s definitely what the developers poured their heart into the most. When the game is showing its few story sequences, they’re told in the form of comic book like panels which share the beautiful artwork.
The game has a decent soundtrack, although you’ll be hearing gunshots for most of the game. Sound effects are good, the bullets and beams each have distinct sounds to which you’ll usually be able to tell what’s coming at you. Overall nothing inherently great or bad in the sound design department.
Featuring an underachieving cast of side-characters, you’ll gain no sympathy or compassion for anyone on this journey. There’s a short segment near the beginning where Rise’s mom sheds tears for Rise due to being chosen for this quest, but that’s it, you don’t see her again for the remainder of the game. Besides two other characters who have the depth of a cardboard box – A little girl who has a crush on Rise and only talks in heart emoji’s and a man who saved her from the rubble, there aren’t any memorable qualities in the games cast.
Rise & Shine tries desperately to mimic the NES classics it so clearly inspires to be, but ultimately it’s a shallow shell of what it could have been. I absolutely adore the artwork, genre-mixing gameplay and some of the more obscure video game references, but I believe the game needed more content and less unnecessary difficulty padding. While I personally did not enjoy the overall experience, the Steam reviews and general consensus seems to be mixed and overall that’s how the game left me feeling.
Release Date - January 13, 2017
Special thanks to Super Mega Team for providing a review code