It’s a good thing that I don’t have a swear jar because Rise & Shine would have put me in all kinds of debt. You wouldn’t think so just by looking at it, but this little 2-D Action Puzzler packs quite a punch and will test your wits and your mettle at a relentless pace at certain moments. Of course, I mean that in a good way as Rise & Shine represents a great start to the new calendar year. No, it may not be a big budget title, but it is a game that’s worth your time, especially if you are a fan of games that pride themselves on difficulty.
When I last left off with Rise & Shine, I was just wrapping up the game’s opening sequence via a Preview Build. Since being updated to the full release version, things have remained largely the same outside of a few new enemy types injected into the equation to mix things up as well as a few quality of life tweaks. If you’d like to check out that preview, you can head over here.
I will say that one aspect of Rise & Shine didn’t quite take off as I was expecting, and that was the narrative. The game prides itself on parodying a number of other major game franchises, designed to make you go, “Oh I know that game!” To be fair, it does work, as I found myself impressed by Rise & Shine’s many different takes on popular games, and in some cases, I wish I just could have seen more of it.
That said, here’s what you need to know about Rise & Shine:
Rise & Shine's world of video game heroes is lovable and a joy to witness, but it doesn't get enough time to...shine.
One thing that I can say for sure is that you will enjoy taking in every ounce of Rise & Shine’s brilliantly rendered environments. It’s a perfect example of that fact that 2-D art, in all its perceived limitations is not necessarily a lesser approach than going fully 3-D. I consistently found myself impressed with how Rise & Shine managed to leverage foreground and background textures alongside simple shapes in bulk that, when combined together, create one larger visual effect.
As far as story and characterization go, Rise & Shine appears to set itself up for something bigger than it actually brings together. Your character, Rise is a typical boy in an atypical world, where everything around him is so much bigger and stronger than he is. There is a brief narrative moment when Rise finds his mother, and the pair talks about how he isn’t ready for what he’s about to face, but the theme’s exploration begins and ends with this moment before Rise is thrust back out into the game world to shoot stuff.
Naturally, with a lot of small indie titles, there are considerably higher limitations with which they have to work in, and I can’t help but feel like the narrative is one of them. As a matter of fact, the game itself is not terribly long either, clocking in at about 5 hours. Fortunately, its length is not in anyway a negative, as it more than makes up for it in several ways.
Rise & Shine does a great job of leveraging its game mechanics into incredibly clever puzzles.
This was one area of the game that I was not expecting to take off, but boy did it. In the preview build, there was some relatively simple bullet navigation puzzles that weren’t anything too out of the ordinary, but once I got beyond the opening salvo, Rise & Shine’s puzzle design took off. There’s one section where you come upon a sign that reads “Dead Shall Pass” and each time you try to move beyond it, a giant laser beam appears and fries you to a crisp. I won’t spoil how to get past it, but I will say that it does require some out of the box thinking that goes against a certain natural inclination.
Rise & Shine also provides some pretty memorable set pieces. My favorite involved traveling inside a colossus to restart its heart, where you have to kill enemies using electrified bullets to charge it up. As the sequence progresses, the game makes use of its grenade lobbing mechanics to create a basketball-like hook shot puzzle to activate switches once they are fully charged. It’s this kind of repurposefulness and layering that makes Rise & Shine really take off.
Rise & Shine is not ashamed to jerk you around on the difficulty front. You will die a lot.
Remember that thing I said about the story not being fully explored? Here’s why that hardly matters. Rise & Shine’s focus is purely on delivering incredibly difficult but (just barely) finely tuned combat scenarios. Enemies are varied, and the methods of dispatching them are just as so. Some enemies can be killed with enough bullets while another will slowly tread towards you with an invulnerable shield that you need to circumvent. There’s also one that will dash out of the way the instant before one of your bullets makes its impact, so you have to compensate by launching a grenade at it.
All of these different things come together rather quickly, and it's easy to find yourself dodging and weaving while you wait for an opening that never comes. Rise & Shine rewards careful aggression and punishes passivity and recklessness. In fact, it punishes you on just about everything, but it’s OK since the game never feels truly impossible; just artificially so when you’re on your last nerve.
But no matter how frustrated you become with Rise & Shine, you won’t be able to help but keep coming back for more.
Rise & Shine makes for a great budget title for you gaming masochists out there. It’s brutal, unrelenting, smart, and a sight to behold. I enjoyed my time with the game very much so, and I hope that if you are in the market for something to challenge the old thumbsticks, that you give this one a look.
It may lack the narrative chops, but what it doesn’t have in story, it more than makes up for it in gameplay.
Rise & Shine packs itself with references galore in a world it doesn’t quite explore. But its combat, puzzle design, art direction, and brutal difficulty make that largely irrelevant.
About The Author
Daniel R. Miller
I'll play anything at least once. But RPG's, Co-Op/Competitive Multiplayer, Action Adventure games, and Sports Franchise Modes keep me coming back. Follow me on Twitter @TheDanWhoWrites