Beauty is something we humans instinctively recognize and appreciate. Whether it’s a glistening mountain lake or the blonde that works at the local cafe, everyone has an eye for beautiful things. Video games are no different; while many games look good, it takes a special type of artistry to stop me cold in my tracks, just to stare in amazement. Rise & Shine, a unique shooter-hybrid, is one of those special games that felt like dessert for my corneas. Rise & Shine’s beauty was much more than skin deep though; compounded with tight controls, amusing writing and punishing (at times) difficulty. At the same time, it was different and unlike anything I’ve really played before. In a copycat industry such as gaming, that is something to recognize and appreciate.
You are Rise, a typical kid in the land of Gameearth who is about to become the world’s most important savior. After renowned hero, Legendary Warrior, suffers fatal injuries, he instructs Rise to take Shine to their King. Shine is no ordinary gun, he acts as your guide and can talk…in addition to providing you infinite respawns and damage resistance. You two are a team, and the bond doesn’t take long to grow through intense battles and funny banter.
Throughout your journey, you will acquire new add-ons for Shine like various bullet types needed for puzzle solving and boss fights. Regular and electric bullets can be toggled and have different effects on enemies. Electric bullets disrupt robotic enemies while your regular bullets are useful for good old fashioned bloodshed. Bullets can be manipulated as well through a few different styles. There is one type of bullet that can be controlled by the player and weaved throughout tight areas, hitting switches or hard to reach enemies. An arcing bullet acts more like a bomb that can be detonated by the player whenever they wish. The combination of bullet elements and types makes for a type of game the developer uniquely described as “think and gun”. This is not the type of leisurely game you can sit back and breeze through with your brain on autopilot. I had to be well rested, fully attentive and on the edge of my seat ready for everything developer SuperMegaTeam threw at me.
Controlling Rise & Shine takes some practice and a bit of memorization for more intense encounters. The game plays like a traditional third or first person shooter with the left trigger bringing up your gun and the right trigger firing bullets. Left and right bumpers are used to toggle bullet elements and types in addition to ducking behind cover with the B button, reloading with X and double jumping with A. All of the buttons are smartly assigned and it feels very natural once the initial learning curve is overcome. This is important because the types of genre’s that Rise & Shine blends all require precise controls: shooters, platformers, puzzles and even bullet hell shoot-em-ups combine to make the game practically one-of-a-kind.
The graphics and art in Rise & Shine are so amazingly detailed, colorful and immersive; screenshots don’t do it justice. It might surprise some people that the game is incredibly violent and gory. Heads get blown off, bodies explode into pieces and blood splatters everywhere. Despite the cartoon art style, this game is by no means intended for children. There is also great usage of depth with foreground effects like fluttering birds blending perfectly with subtle movements of butterflies and trees in the background. The story is told through comic style storyboards with no voice acting. These sections are usually enjoyable but occasionally can run a little long. The occasional load time might keep you waiting for a few brief moments but thankfully restarting is quick and easy. As if that wasn’t good enough there are also a bunch of Nintendo references throughout the game. Link, Mario, Duck Hunt dog and Toad look-alikes are easy to spot and surprisingly fit in just fine.
One part of the game I found incredibly annoying was the checkpoint system. It was hard for me to know when my progress was saved and when it was not saved. For example, I would get to a boss and decide to quit after getting my ass handed to me. When I loaded my save the next day I was not at the boss fight but a few areas ahead. I had to solve challenging puzzles for a second time that I was lucky to even pass once. I would have loved to be able to manually save my data or have the game at least save before challenging encounters. I would have also preferred the game to be longer and it would be amazing to play in co-op.
What all this adds up to is a game that is incredibly unique and challenging, while at the same time being a visual delight. Admittedly, there were times when I got mad at the game and wanted to give up; I thought the section I was stuck at was impossible to pass. Thankfully with a little time away and some fresh eyes, I always managed to make progress. Rise & Shine takes many risks with its design and blending of gameplay genres; thankfully it came out the other end smelling like roses. While I don’t think any game is perfect, Rise & Shine is incredibly exemplary. Highly recommended.