Preview: Rise & Shine is a gamer’s game

A more thoughtful approach to the 2-D shooter

Rise & Shine is best described as a gamer’s game. It's chocked full of in your face references that are designed to make you go “look they've got Portal/Zelda/etc.” while providing a challenging game that is unique in its own right. The main draw of the game is that it's a parody of the game's that it references, but tonally Rise & Shine is weird in the sense that it seems afraid to make fun of them (unless it's a mobile app of course). The presentation, however, is top notch, particularly if you are a fan of comics. 
Rise & Shine’s art style looks like Castle Crashers with about 2-3 more layers of detail going into the background. A chaotic battle between the denizens of Gamearth and the evil Space Grunts of Nexgen looms in the background, foreshadowing the challenges ahead. You play as a child known as Rise who is entrusted to carry a powerful gun known as Shine by a dying legendary warrior, whose appearance will be quite familiar to you. Rise & Shine may look like your typical 2D run n’ gun, but it’s far more cerebral than that, creating an experience that tests your wits under pressure.
Here’s a look ahead to what you can expect from Rise & Shine.
Preview: Rise & Shine is a gamer's game
Rise & Shine is set in a world of video game heroes and presents them as if they were in a comic book. However, it’s narrative doesn’t know if it wants to be funny or serious.
It bears repeating, but Rise & Shine has a stellar art direction. The characters who inhabit the aptly named world of “Gamearth” are parodies of one gaming franchise or another. In the opening segments of the game, Rise’s friend Tomox lands unceremoniously next to the protagonist and is a rather literal depiction of the classic Space Invader. Unfortunately for Tomox, his screen time is cut rather short as he sacrifices himself for the hero. 
The very next scene takes you to a crumbling mall, and sitting at the top of the escalator in the background is a store called “Bleszinski’s Chainsaws” before you are rescued by a “Legendary Warrior” who looks exactly like The Legend of Zelda’s Link. 
The game’s cutscenes are told in single frame panels, complete with speech and thought bubbles. Going into the game, I expected a pretty straightforward comedic narrative, but that was not what ended up happening. Between Tomox’s sacrifice and a tearful reunion with Rise’s mother, it feels like Rise & Shine can’t quite commit itself to going one way or the other. It’s weird in the sense that it’s not quite funny enough to be laugh out loud, but not sad enough to be a tear-jerker. 
Preview: Rise & Shine is a gamer's game
Rise & Shine isn’t so much a Run n’ Gun as it is a Think n’ Gun type of game.
Like a lot of 2D shooters, Rise & Shine injects a fair amount of death into its equation. That said, these deaths, nor the action, come as quickly as you might think. That’s because the game breaks things up with some light puzzles and cover mechanics to give you a chance to catch your breath and assess the situation. The cover is vital for Rise in the midst of a firefight, as his health can dwindle quickly, with death coming at no more than 3-4 consecutive hits. 
Rise’s health does regen, and good thing it does because his movements can feel somewhat lethargic compared to other run n’ gun games, leaving you open to attack. This is of course, by design as the game offers you a Dash move and the previously mentioned cover mechanics to compensate for Rise’s lack of speed. Enemy attacks can often be deflected by firing rounds from Shine, but require precision accuracy and timing. 
In nearly every circumstance, you can see the enemy attacks coming a second or so before they hit you, so you are given a brief window in which to think up a counter move. This move can involve popping in and out of cover, or good old fashioned suppressing fire and seeing what hits. 
Preview: Rise & Shine is a gamer's game
Rise & Shine will live and die by the player’s ability to aim.
This is the gray area with Rise & Shine. I enjoy the fact that I have to carefully aim under pressure within a split second window during many encounters. It's thrilling and a bit scary, knowing that my cover is gradually chipping away and that I have to get that perfect shot to escape my current predicament.
That is, I enjoy it so long as I can connect with my target. And this is where I think Rise & Shine gets a bit hit or miss…so to speak.
I encountered several situations where Rise & Shine’s decision to implement an Aim and Shoot system backfired on its intended effect. This was most notable during the preview version’s boss encounter. 
What happened was is that I had to guide a bullet to a flashing red button on the boss’ back while I could only navigate through designated area map before the shot goes astray. The switch was located outside of the area, so the challenge was that you had so set up a straight shot between where the bullet exited the zone and where it was supposed to land.
The only thing I could do in this instance was eyeball it, which resulted in a number of very frustrating misses. While I understand the logic behind the design, it's intended effect ends up missing the mark behind a wall of wayward bullets.
Early Verdict:
It's way too soon to tell either way, but overall Rise & Shine is off to a promising start. I enjoyed seeing the world despite its slightly confused tone and engaged well with its combat systems despite some frustration. I'm excited to see where Rise & Shine goes from here when it releases on PC and Xbox One one January 13th, 2017.