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Rise & Shine (PC) artwork

Rise & Shine (PC) review

"Somewhat Overcast"

Rise & Shine is pretty grim, apart from when it isnít, which is more or less all the time. Itís set on Gamearth, a world populated by video game tropes which riffs on everything from Gears of War to Duck Hunt. Remember that bloody dog that popped up in that latter game to giggle at your awful efforts to blast digital poultry? He shows up again halfway through this game. Heís still laughing at you, only this time he has a detonator. And youíre standing on a bridge. With its underside packed with explosives.

Itís all a bit cute and self-referential. Like how a palace is decorated with adorable little lights shaped like the power-up mushrooms from Mario Bros. Itís just that, hanging from the same roof, are the corpses of slaughtered citizens. This is because while the gameís world is cartoony and light-hearted, the invasion of it is not. Itís brutal. So you might have some initial misgivings about how the fight-back is being waged by a small boy named Rise armed with a sentient gun. Itís a weapon he obtains from the dying Legendary Hero -- who looks a lot like a fan-art recolouring of Link Ė which instantly grants him video game powers, such as double jumping and respawns. Most of the time, this gives Rise an indifferent attitude as he knowingly marches into certain death confident heíll just respawn again a few steps previous when he falls. And then, sometimes, heís forced to fight a giant robot through the wreckage of what used to be his hometown with silent tears streaming from his eyes.

Rise & Shine (PC) image

Itís a weird combination that sometimes works very well, but often feels like the two halves are at odds with each other. And therein lies a decent description of Rise & Shine; itís a game that wants to do a little of everything and, as such, never settles on doing anything brilliantly. It wants to be a run-and-gunner, but to have cover-based firefights and also puzzles strewn between and even during battles. Battling is clunky, but satisfying, and it takes an almost cerebral approach to how you tackle the enemy patterns and placements. While Rise & Shine isnít afraid to shelter you behind a slab of rock and have you try and gun down a screen of plasma-blasting robots and over-muscled thugs before they destroy your cover and grant you one of seven million deaths, it also uses your rapid-fire retries to make you plan out your assaults. As the game progresses, Rise can find upgrades for his gun, Shine (see what they did, there?) that can be used to your advantage. He can scroll through regular or electrified ammo, employ a grenade launcher, or even gain complete remote control over his bullets in special areas.

It gives a lot of battles a slower edge that is almost puzzle-like. Then it puts you in a pocket of danger where you donít have time to ponder a solution and forces you to try and figure it out on the fly. The best and most successful use of this tactic is during the numerous boss fights which are often unashamed puzzle situations that are trying to kill you. When you die - and die you shall - you often do so with a slightly larger part of the bigger plan in how to succeed. You need to guide that one bullet there, or time a grenade lob so it explode somewhere else, or belt a weak point with electric ammo until it powers down enough to destroy it with regular slugs.

Rise & Shine (PC) image

Thereís even a brilliant boss battle early on that is won using so simple a solution that youíll initially overlook it while you try and figure out a more complex way to take it down. Moments both like this as well as the feeling of satisfaction that comes from destroying a tricky boss are the moments where Rise & Shine really starts to earn a sense of swagger. Dodging zombified Goombaís while trying to trick orbital death rays into destroying their own electronic grid, or trying to jumpstart the heart of a broken machine with the explosions of smaller foes. Certainly in the early going of the game, youíre met with so many new ideas and fair-handed obstacles that the numerous deaths wonít bother you. Itís rarely the game being cheap - itís your worthless fleshy hands not being quick enough, or the solution to the situation not being sleuthed out in time. Death only means scrolling back a small distance, thanks to some lenient and brilliantly-paced checkpoints being employed, and, anyway, it might let you see something new in the hand-drawn background, like how that corpse looks a bit like Mega Man or how flappy bird seems to be flying in that flock of fleeing doves.

So itís a shame that, even considering the gameís short runtime of around three hours, Super Mega Team are unable to keep the momentum going. The end stretch contains the gameís worst moments, foregoing the wild creativity of the initial stages and floundering in artificial difficulty and bad ideas. Suddenly, out of nowhere, one entire stage is a scrolling shooter where you control a barge far too large to dodge projectiles. The cannon you control has the power to shoot down projectiles, but the screen is busy enough with enemies that youíll more often do this by complete accident. Itís a chore to complete, and not even the somewhat clever trip to NPC island that mocks cut-away mini-games and then straight after employs them can take the taste away. The last stage is a real slog.

Rise & Shine (PC) image

The try-die-retry chain that felt so uncumbersome in the beginning of Rise & Shine unravels. Deaths feels cheap and unavoidable and therefore, itís harder to blame yourself and easier to blame the game. Itís frustrating, and seeing the game through to completion becomes a grind. Unlike the rest of the game. you need to trudge on through to the underwhelming ending powered by the grinding of teeth.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (January 23, 2017)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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Nightfire posted January 31, 2017:

I felt that this review felt a little bit cluttered in places. However, after viewing some footage of this game, I think I understand why. This game seems like a bit of a mess, and most of us would probably have trouble describing it succinctly. You sure did your best with it, though.

As a side note, I have to say that I do not, in fact, see "what they did there" by titling the game Rise & Shine. It just seems like maybe that was the codename for the project that ended up becoming the title of the game and the names of the characters because of laziness and/or arbitrary reasons. A boy named "Rise" and a gun named "Shine" doesn't seem to have much to do with the overall theme of referencing other video games, aside from simply sounding like a snappy title. It's a nice title I guess, but if there's a gimmick there, I don't get it.

But I digress. This piece was overflowing with your usual blend of adept descriptions mixed with anecdotal experiences. However, you were bumped out because some of the sentences felt a bit run-on. There were also a few places where the punctuation could've been tighter. Really minor things. It's still a strong piece overall. In another week, this one would've easily taken first place.

Sorry, buddeh. I know it comes as a shock that you got bounced out of ROTW, but it was super tight this time around.
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EmP posted January 31, 2017:

No complaints here. I want a site that's constantly pushing me to write better reviews, and I want a RotW that's all about rewarding quality, not name recognition. If the byproduct is an output of work the likes of this, then I benefit, the site benefits, and we all benefit. Besides, it'll take a fair bit more than this to dent the raging inferno that has become my ego.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts regardless of my lack of placement, and congrats on getting through probably the toughest week we've had since we reinstated RotW.

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