I wasn’t expecting much from Rise & Shine. The game looked like a fun few hours, but not something any one would still be talking about in a few months. And that’s more or less what I got. The story has some odd inconsistencies that make it seem like the script wasn’t proofread enough, the gameplay is mostly simplistic and the cutscenes look like they were taken from Deviantart. Even so, Rise & Shine was fun through-out most of its run time, only stumbling once near the end, like a well-adjusted narcoleptic who manages to wake up just in before falling over.
You play as a young boy named Rise, a citizen of Gamearth which has just found itself under attack by an unknown enemy. As the game starts Rise witnesses the death of The Legendary Hero™, who gives the young boy Shine, a gun with the power to respawn its user. Why shine doesn’t respawn The Legendary Hero™ and let a more experienced hero carry on is brought up but never answered. But, apparently we’re just cool with letting unqualified people run shit now, so whatever. At least Rise’s hands are big enough to hold the gun.
The game’s story is mostly forgettable, but it suffers from some of the clumsiest storytelling I’ve seen in a long time. And I’ve seen Twilight. A major plot element is set-up (way too obviously) as a twist that gets resolved as if it was no big deal. Near the beginning of the game Rise’s mom tells him how everyone on Gamearth eventually has to save the day, only for another character to say a little later that only a rare few are ever called upon to do something special. Rise and Shine have a kind of antagonistic relationship, but nothing establishes why the two don’t get along. The game’s story is a lot like Pixels: they both pay homage to the glory days of gaming and both would have benefited greatly from someone proofreading the shooting script. Okay, that’s not quite fair. Rise and Shine was funny at times and didn’t include Adam Sandler, so props where they’re due.
The gameplay is pretty bare-bones, yet still overly-complicated. You movie with A and D (it’s a 2D game, so not much use for W or S) and shoot using the mouse. But, in order to shoot you have to hold the right button to aim and the left button to fire. That alone would feel pretty odd, but then the game adds in two types of ammo and three firing modes that you often have to switch between in each fight. And, as the game is paying homage to ye-olde-days of gaming, you can forget about any “modern” touches like the game freezing while switching ammo or firing mode, ya whippersnapper. Even though old games totally did pause, Mega Man for example. Nope, you gotta do it all in the heat of battle, as well as reloading and clearing incoming projectiles. I know that sounds pretty damn frustrating, but to be honest I found it to be a lot of fun for the most part. The game paces out most of the upgrades so as not to overwhelm the player, and the battles are usually well crafted enough to make everything flow smoothly.
Except the one time where it would have fucking mattered.
Near the end of the game you enter RPG City, and there are really only two screens worth of gameplay: one were a few waves of foes attack, and a boss fight. The boss was pretty okay, but that first fight was the cheapest shit I had to deal with the entire game. Waves came in almost at random, there was no real pattern to the enemy’s fire, and most enemies could one-shot-kill you. Those that didn’t could kill the player with two hits, which made target prioritization nearly impossible. Plus, the only bit of cover was slowly destroyed over time (where did they get that idea?), so the only defensive option was to clear out projectiles. The projectiles that were coming from all directions from enemies you still have to kill in order to move on. I’m not going to lie, this one battle almost ruined the game for me. Yes, this was supposed to be the “fight of a lifetime”, but after beating the game it felt like the dev team just made this section as cheap as possible to hide how little gameplay there was left. So, if nothing else you can’t say they weren’t true to the spirit of classic gaming.
Other than that, the game’s biggest flaw is that it’s too short. I know a lot of people say that’s the best compliment you can say about a piece of work, but this time I really do mean it as a criticism. The game feels like a really good novel that got cut down into a short story. No, it feels like Neill Blomkamp’s film “Elysium”: a super bad-ass film that is filled with so many great ideas that none of them get the attention they deserve. Rise & Shine finds an interesting use for the re-spawn ability twice in its run time, but I felt like it should have been used at least once more. To continue with my movie references, film makers are supposed to set something up, remind the audience about it, then pay it off. Here we’re missing one of those steps. I’m hoping we get a director’s cut or extended edition somewhere down the line.
And yes, I do recognize the irony that I’ve only been using film references in a review of a game about games.
Everything else is, at the very least, functional. I would have preferred the game had voice acting, but its exclusion didn’t hurt it. The story scenes look like fan art, but in motion it looked really nice. The sound of turning a space grunt’s head into a pile of giblets was pretty satisfying. None of it is ever great, but it never goes as low as mediocre either. Personally, I’d say sleep on Rise & Shine, but make sure you set your alarm for a Steam Sale. Unless painfully unfunny naming puns put you into a homicidal wrath (Cathy heard the name and is now in the middle of a multi-state killing spree). Then you should just stay away.
Rise and Shine was developed by SUPER AWESOME HYPER DIMENSIONAL MEGA TEAM
Point of Sale: Steam, Xbox One
$14.99; Quite the wake up call for a three-hour game.
A review copy of Rise and Shine was supplied in this review.
William Shelton has awarded Rise and Shine the Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval.