Somewhat clever, somewhat dreary and way too mechanically unsound – that’s Rise and Shine.
There are always games which “catch your eye” so to speak with their visual style. It immediately inspires visions of crazy action, crazy set-pieces and just plain craziness in the 2D space. Even if Rise and Shine didn’t come with a whole lot of hype behind it, the sheer amount of awesome retro throwbacks that are floating around on Steam inspired hope.
Lo and behold, Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team’s latest is the dampest of damp squibs, at least in recent memory.
"At this point, it’s obvious that Rise and Shine isn’t your typical action packed 2D side-scrolling shooter."
Rise and Shine takes place on the planet Gamearth which is full of aesthetics, Easter Eggs and little nods to gaming’s illustrious history. Whether it’s Mario, Gears of War or Zelda, you’ll find something or the other than inspires a callback. As Rise, you’re minding your own business when a roided up alien starts attacking…and then you’re dead. Why are you dead? Oh well, you didn’t run to the piece of debris and take cover behind it quickly enough. Keep this moment in mind – it will underscore many of the frustrations experienced with Rise and Shine.
Anyway, Rise encounters the Legendary Warrior who vanquishes Drax’s estranged cousin and slowly dies. But not before handing off Shine, a mythical talking gun that guides Rise. Thus begins this strange journey of epic consequences as Rise must meet the King of Gamearth and figure out what this alien invasion is all about. You head outside, ready for adventure, immediately run into a mine that pops out of nowhere and die.
At this point, it’s obvious that Rise and Shine isn’t your typical action packed 2D side-scrolling shooter. Your main weapon, Shine, must be readied with the Left Trigger, aimed with the Right Stick and then fired with the Right Trigger. There’s a double jump which feels woefully ineffective and Rise can take cover behind objects, popping out and shooting down enemies. Not only is not made perfectly clear where your projectiles are going but the myriad of baddies throughout levels spew out several bullets at once.
"The bigger issue is that for a game that wants to make each encounter feel “tactical” or at best “quizzical”, it’s more reliant on luck than anything else."
Rather than do the sane thing like, oh, allowing cover to protect you as a shoulder-high wall, you’re forced to duck in and out of it, firing bullets and hoping you hit something before reloading. It’s less thrilling than it sounds and when the screen is filled with more than a few enemies, “downright chaotic” takes on whole new meaning as you awkwardly struggle to kill enemies, shoot bullets before they hit you and take cover. The icing on top is that Rise can die within a few hits or immediately with some well-placed explosions.
Rise and Shine does try to throw more tactical choices into the mix with RC bullets that can be guided and Electric bullets that are effective against machines. The RC bullets are only really useful for triggering switches and buttons, and trying to navigate narrow hallways with the Right Stick is honestly a pain. Nonetheless, it’s one of the more interesting aspects of the game so I can’t complain much. As it stands, you won’t find a buffet of game-changing tactics to choose from throughout Rise and Shine, even if it lasts for two to three hours.
The bigger issue is that for a game that wants to make each encounter feel “tactical” or at best “quizzical”, it’s more reliant on luck than anything else. Your first major boss encounter with a flying mechanical chopper starts with you probably doing some damage against the hull. Explosives rain down on you from the chopper and can be shot. However, explosives can also rain down from somewhere else, engulfing you completely and killing you. But hey, sometimes they may not kill you immediately.
"Rise and Shine feels like it wants to be something unique but within the familiar veneer of a retro side-scrolling shooter."
Other boss fights feel like they rely more on bosses not quite doing what they did before. It’s incredibly frustrating to play a 2D action side-scroller that doesn’t want you to learn from your mistakes or memorize what the boss is doing, instead leaving things up to the lord of RNG disaster in the sky.
And that’s pretty sad, especially considering what could have been. The setting of Gamearth is similarly wasted as we see all these references to classic franchises, cleverly implemented and popping with great art, just wasted. Why should you care about these people or saving the world at all? There isn’t even any clever humour pervading it all. There’s one moment where a bad-ass soldier joins you and is hyped as being the ultimate killer. He’s killed off within minute by a sudden landmine because he’s too dumb. Har har, I suppose?
Rise and Shine feels like it wants to be something unique but within the familiar veneer of a retro side-scrolling shooter. It wants these cover shooter-esque elements and platforming but doesn’t offer reliable shooting, skillful improvement or solid mechanics to back it. You can only marvel at a world inspired by video games so many times before you eventually want some personality as well. Despite its namesake and the gorgeous art, Rise and Shine is so downright unwelcoming, cheerless, drab and worst of all, boring that it makes Dark Souls feel like a picnic.
This game was reviewed on Xbox One.
Eye-popping art-style and visuals. Interesting puzzles to be solved with RC bullets. Neat little references to other games.
Uninspired and insipid plot. Shooting feels unreliable and cover-based mechanics feel awkward. Weird difficulty, especially during boss battles, that depends more on luck than skill. Game world feels dreary and lacking in identity. Short play-length.
Rise and Shine's awesome 2D art-style and references can't help the uneven shooting that pervades its shoddy gameplay.