Developer: Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team
Publisher: Adult Swim Games
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC
Laurel and Hardy, Bert and Ernie, Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle. Over the years, there have been some incredible duos that have captured the attention of the world. Perhaps that truth abounds even more so in video games: Mario and Luigi, Sonic and Tails, Yooka and Laylee, and so on. Now we get an unusual duo in Rise and Shine, a boy fated to save Gamearth and a legendary gun with an attitude. Unfortunately, unlimited respawns may still not be enough to save this indie title from its fate.
When you kill Space Grunts, their spirits will float toward the heavens. You can then blow their spirits out of the sky. Beyond that, there is some minor discussion of life and death wrapped up around the fact that Shine gives his wielder unlimited respawns.
There’s a surprising amount of gore here. Characters will explode violently, get their heads blown off and melt in a puddle of acid during which your skull hits the ground and continues to roll.
Oh yeah, Rise & Shine is full of crass humor. A lot of it is aimed at being fourth-wall-breaking, but this game was clearly designed with a mature audience in mind. As cartoony as it looks, Rise & Shine is not for children.
This is no sexual content to be concerned about.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. This game is unnecessarily frustrating and you’ll have to persevere to conquer it.
On its face, Rise & Shine is a sidescrolling run-and-gun shooter. It doesn’t take long to realize there’s much more going on mechanically than simply shooting enemies. Like Gears of War, you’ll have to utilize cover to avoid enemy fire. There are also puzzles that require you to guide bullets through mazes to unlock switches and the like. Everything is functional on its face, but the game feels like it breaks down when there’s a lot happening on screen. You have to use the right joystick to aim, and precision is required; the problem is that everything on screen is tiny and there can be a lot coming at you at once. Nailing your shots while avoiding incoming fire can be an infuriating, glaucoma-inducing exercise in frustration. In this way, the game feels like it aggressively disrespects both you and your time. I had to step away and cool my heels overnight more than once, and given the game’s brief length, that is a testament to its flawed combat systems.
The narrative is aimed at hitting the nostalgic feels of everyone on the planet. It doesn’t matter if you got your start on a Nintendo, Sony, or Microsoft platform, there are callbacks in here you’ll catch. Rise’s father, for example, is a direct mock of Marcus Fenix, right down to the armor and headband. Architecture looks like consoles you probably had as a kid growing up. There may even be NPCs from a certain fungal realm you’ll recognize.
Beyond the nostalgic cameos, the story is run-of-the-mill. Gamearth (see what they did there?) is being attacked by Space Grunts. As Rise is trying to escape the city, he sees the Legendary Hero get gunned down. In his final breaths, the hero bestows ownership of Shine to the young boy, tasking him with reaching the King and using the firearm’s ability to infinitely respawn its owner along the way. (The frustrating gameplay mentioned above leans into that particular portion of the lore a bit too heavily.)
Rise will have to defeat hordes of robots, space grunts, zombies, and a couple of particularly nasty boss enemies. I feel like the boss encounters are a missed opportunity—there aren’t many of them in the game, but they are easily the most fun the game has to offer, employing unique attack patterns and interesting gameplay mechanics that kept me on my toes.
In terms of visual aesthetic, Rise & Shine is a wonderful looking game. The art is bright and colorful and the illustrations are reminiscent of an animated film or cartoon. Interludes are full of vibrant comic artwork. The game’s animation looks great too. My primary issue with it, however, is that ther eseems to be far too much on the screen at once. Everything is much smaller as a result, and it genuinely affects the gameplay when you’re trying to nail precise shots on robots across the screen.
The score helps drive the action on screen but unfortunately, is otherwise fairly forgettable. There isn’t one track I can recall tapping my toes to or going back for another listen of. The sound effects do an excellent job conveying the atmosphere and action, though.
At the end of the day, there are some fun things about Rise & Shine. The game is gorgeous and they try to employ some unique gameplay mechanics. The callbacks to video game cultural touchstones are a nice, fun touch as well. The boss encounters were a blast to figure out and conquer as well. Unfortunately, the game is infuriatingly challenging, even at its default difficulty, and despite the attempt at humor and nostalgia, the narrative feels pretty weak. Consider letting this one sleep in.
The Bottom Line
Rise & Shine is a gorgeous game that pays homage to a slew of video game touchstones. While it employs some interesting mechanics, it is ultimately a frustrating experience that disrespects your time in an effort to artificially lengthen an otherwise brief game with a ho-hum story. Let this one sleep in.