Run and gunners tend to be part of the ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ genre of games. Developer Super Mega Team had other ideas with Rise & Shine, though, as they aimed to create a think and gun. Essentially, I had to use my head while trying to progress, if I didn’t want to watch my protagonist’s head rolling on the floor.
Rise & Shine’s story opens with the citizens of Gamearth being overrun by the Space grunts of Nexgen. Even their chosen hero (bearing a suspicious likeness to The Legend of Zelda’s Link) falls to his death. Before passing on, he hands over the legendary weapon – a gun called Shine – to a boy named Rise. The pair are now labelled as the only ones who can save the world, and set off on their adventure together.
In case it wasn’t clear, Rise & Shine’s tongue is placed firmly in its cheek. The overly stereotypical story and cheesy references certainly earn themselves a few eye rolls. Very much making up any transgressions, though, is the detail in the beautifully hand-drawn illustrations. I’d often get distracted by my search for Easter Eggs on numerous occasions, and was particularly amused by the dark gaming humour. Take, for example, a castle entrance adorned in both Super Mario Toad lanterns and dead bodies, gently swinging in the breeze.
Unfortunately, getting too lost in the artwork means certain death. A wrong step, or type of bullet, and poor Rise faces getting killed in a gruesome way that appears to have come straight out of Limbo. I got to see these animations a lot because Rise & Shine is hard. Sure, the basics of the game are just to get from the left side of the level to the right, but doing so takes a lot of deep breaths and patience.
The run and gun elements involve working out the best way to dispatch of enemies while avoiding their different projectiles. Other than some limited cover, that takes damage over time, as well as Rise’s dodge slide, and jump abilities, he’s pretty out in the open. Combining this with a health bar that can only take 1-3 hits before death, and I quickly learned the need to stay on my toes. Timing is often everything. Precise dodging, choosing which enemies to prioritize, and exactly when to make use of cover have to be constantly considered.
Instead of difficulty though, most of my stress actually came from the stiff accuracy. While the controls are straightforward, Shine naturally slotted his aim into certain angles. Nailing anything in-between is possible, but takes care – something I often didn’t have in the fast paced environment. Now, I did get used to this in time, and there were so many checkpoints that it’s hard to complain, but it still put a damper on the whole experience that just shouldn’t have been there.
Luckily, not only could my legendary weapon shoot down the enemies and their incoming fire, but he had a couple of other tricks up his sleeve (or should that be his barrel?) as well. The ones I was most thankful for had to be the health regeneration, unlimited respawns, and as much ammo as I could speed my way through. It sounds like this would make the experience super easy, but really it just helped to keep the pace going, and stopped the multiple deaths from getting rage inducing.
Shine’s other extra abilities were then where Rise & Shine started to become more interesting. The game actually involves puzzles, both stand alone and within the action, that require a decent degree of thought and experimentation. The main upgrades are electric bullets to take out drones and paralyze human grunts, grenades to blow things up, and a controlled shot which has its entire route dictated by the player.
At a simple level, puzzles may just be realizing that a grenade or electrical bullet would do the job quicker, but my favourites required a bit more thought. For example, when a laser gun blocked my path, I had to use my controlled shots to carefully weave around obstacles above the laser, in order to kill the person wielding it.
On the other hand, many of the stand alone puzzles are repetitive. Sure, they make for a good chance to get my breath back, but I can only guide a bullet through an obstacle course or hit a precise point with a grenade so many times before it gets boring. In addition to this, certain bosses require being accurate and speedy with the controlled shot. I have to admit that these drove me round the bend a bit due to combining the sticky aim with a time limit.
I managed to beat the game in around 7 hours and felt pretty happy with that. Naturally, better players are going to have an easier time, and they should note the addition of an Ironman mode for a greater challenge. I could actually see this game being pretty fun to master and speed through, personally managing to get to the first main boss without dying in an hour on my second playthrough.
Rise & Shine certainly made me think and play. There are plenty of interesting ideas going on, and whether I needed to gauge the right moment to dodge, remember wave patterns, or work out a puzzle, it was never boring. Capping it all off was the fantastic hand-drawn art style, constantly distracting me with its gaming references. Sure, sticky accuracy and a couple of slow puzzles do frustrate at times, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t end up having a lot of fun here.
This review is based off a PC copy of the game, which we were provided with.
Rise & Shine has a lot of interesting ideas to keep players on their toes. It’s just a shame that some of the fun turns sour due to repeated puzzles and poor gun accuracy.