Review: Rise & Shine (Switch)

Dawn of a rough morning.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 11/14/2018 06:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Stunning visuals; funny writing; interesting mix of run and gun gameplay and puzzle solving
Poison Mushroom for...
High difficulty comes as much from imbalances in gameplay and shaky controls as it does the difficulty level

I wanted to like Rise & Shine more than I ultimately did. Developed by Spanish studio Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team and published by Adult Swim Games, Rise & Shine is a run and gun shooter/platformer. It has a bold, punchy visual style ripped straight from a cartoon and some humorous writing, but the core gunplay is just not quite up to snuff with the rest of the game. Rise & Shine has plenty of potential, but it proves to be an okay game when it could have been a great one.

Rise & Shine is about a world besieged by invading aliens. The hero, Rise, is a young boy who finds himself pulled into the fray suddenly and without warning, handed control of a legendary firearm dubbed Shine and told to go out and save the day. So, no pressure. Shine, meanwhile, is a sentient handgun that helps Rise make his way through the deadly skirmishes taking place all around him. The duo work together to help stave off the end of all things.

It’s in these beginning segments of Rise & Shine that the game is at its best. There are a ton of irreverent references made to a number of different video game series, including Gears of War and The Legend of Zelda (believe me, the imposter Link stands out like a sore thumb!). It’s some fun, goofy stuff that shows where the design team was drawing inspiration from. It’s also nice to occasionally see a developer not mindlessly lavishing reverence on some of the “sacred cows” of the industry.

Rise & Shine is not for the delicate. For one thing, it’s a bit of a bloodbath. For another, there’s a brutal old-school difficulty level on display here. Plenty of one-hit kills are the way of the world in Rise & Shine. Enemies attack in formation or employ tricky movement patterns, and it isn’t long before swarms of shots start heading Rise’s way. Dancing between rounds is immensely challenging, requiring quite a bit of twitch reflex from the player. Overall, this deadly ballet of bullets and shooting and jumping is largely fun.

What makes Rise & Shine particularly unique is how it attempts to merge gunplay with puzzle solving. This is facilitated by the three different types of ammo available to Rise: electric, remote-controlled, and standard rounds. Every battle scenario requires a particular type or types of bullets to be used in order to proceed. Sending shots behind enemies utilizing the remote-controlled rounds, for instance, is a common strategy during shootouts. This is further aided by a cover system that gives Rise some room to breathe and strategize.

The problem with Rise & Shine‘s gunplay (and by extension the main issue with the game) is that it doesn’t strike the right balance between mayhem and thoughtfulness that it needs to succeed. Run and gun titles tend to lean on the visceral action of shooting for entertainment— look no further than the Metal Slug or Contra franchises, for instance. Rise & Shine does have mostly satisfying shooting mechanics, but the more thoughtful elements of puzzle solving come in on the opposite end of the pacing spectrum. Basically, running around shooting and blowing things up tends to stand in stark contrast with pausing to analyze how to solve a puzzle.

It’s a dichotomy that could work and sometimes does in Rise & Shine. However, too often I found myself being bombarded with a wall of shots from enemies and was still expected to carefully determine the right combination of bullets and shots to survive. After countless deaths, the thrill starts to wear away and is replaced instead with frustration. It feels like Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team was trying to have its cake and eat it, too. At the end of the day, the studio wasn’t able to reconcile such hectic, frenzied shooting gameplay with the more nuanced and deliberate pacing of puzzle solving.

This dilemma could have perhaps been rectified by the shooting mechanics, but even here there are some irritants that hold the game back. Shine has a laser sight affixed to it that assists Rise in aiming. Rise can shoot in virtually any direction, which makes the laser sight critical, but the beam doesn’t quite extend far enough to truly feel useful. I can understand wanting to make the player aim versus relying on placing the beam, but the controls aren’t smooth enough to allow for that. Instead, I found myself frequently unable to place shots where I wanted them at the rate that I needed. In fairness, the beam does extend further when firing electric rounds, but I couldn’t understand why normal rounds weren’t afforded the same level of precision aiming.

Yet, for all the problems that Rise & Shine has, there’s a lot that it gets right. The references to classic video game series are fun to spot, like rolling red barrels of death and an old man that warns how “it’s dangerous to go alone.” Sure, some of the nods are perhaps too on the nose (and become arguably overused), but it’s all done in good fun. The hand-drawn graphics are really, really impressive, too. It’s almost like looking at a ’90s comic book or a cartoon come to life. Something about the toon-like visuals makes the displays of gore look even more ludicrous (and entertaining). Rise & Shine ain’t for the youngins!

In truth, Rise & Shine might not be the right fit for a lot of players. Its brutal challenge is owed in equal parts to its controls and design as much as its overall difficulty level, which will be a tough sell for many. While there are definite deficiencies in Rise & Shine, in particular its failure to properly balance the shooting and puzzle mechanics on offer here, I’d argue that it’s not enough to give the game a hard pass. When Rise & Shine‘s gameplay works, it works well, providing a fascinating take on the run and gun genre that I hope Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team has a chance to refine and perfect at some point. If you can take the pounding, Rise & Shine might be worth a look.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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