Rise and Shine, a retro-looking platformer that boasts difficult side scrolling combat, is one of the few Adult Swim games to come to Xbox One. While it looks to be a simple romp through a colorful 2D world, it turns out to be very difficult indeed, but not necessarily in a good way.
Rise and Shine
Developer: Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team
Price: 14.99 USD
Platform: PC/Xbox One (Reviewed)
MonsterVine was given an Xbox One code for review
In Rise and Shine you play as a ten-year-old boy named Rise that lives on the fictional planet of Gamearth. After the planet begins to be overrun and attacked by the evil “space grunts” from the planet Nexgen, Rise is thrust into a situation that places him at the helm of the planet’s only hope for survival. A legendary warrior saves him from certain doom, but is killed in the process. In the legendary warrior’s final moments, he bestows a magical talking gun named Shine upon Rise, and informs him that Shine is the key to Gamearth’s survival.
From this abrupt beginning, Rise is thrown into action with killer robots and space grunts galore. The game does not inform the player on how to do anything; this is done by a tutorial in the main menu, which is easy to miss for any eager gamer. While the controls are simple enough to learn, some would argue that starting a game out as quickly as this one does is not desirable. After shooting open a glass door, which is not hinted at as the objective whatsoever, the adventure begins. Shortly after starting down the side-scrolling world, Rise finds the first of five attachments that Shine can gain. Picking up the attachments, which are all gathered within the first third of the game, is the only time the game tells you how to do anything. This lack of hinting at an objective is seemingly nice because the game attempts to not hold your hand through anything, but it also makes some sections of the game more difficult and frustrating than seemingly intended as you progress.
The first “scene” or two of the game are simple and straightforward in comparison to the rest of the game, laying the groundwork for how the game will handle and feel for the remainder. They house fewer enemies and simpler puzzles, but once they are out of the way, the game amps up the difficulty quite a bit. The game does boast “ruthless” combat on its website, and the combat is indeed ruthless. For an avid gamer such as myself, I enjoy a challenge. I welcome the trial and difficulty of games such as Dark Souls, but Rise and Shine’s difficulty feels very different from that, and not in the best way. There is difficulty that presents a challenge to a skilled hand and mind, and there is difficulty simply for its own sake, and unfortunately Rise and Shine feels like the latter of the two. The sheer amount of enemies and projectiles at one time is akin to that of the upper levels of a game such as Geometry Wars, where the whole point is to survive as long as you can. The problem here is that Rise and Shine’s movement system does not complement its combat. The movement is sluggish and underwhelming. Rise can double jump, but only so high, and the speed at which it occurs is often not fast enough to get out of the way of projectiles, which there are more often than not far too many to avoid. While you can shoot them out of the sky, you only have ten bullets before reloading. This is only remedied if you look for secrets, which allows you to obtain five extra bullets throughout the game.
While it is difficult due to the mass amount of enemies and projectiles paired with a slow moving character, Rise and Shine is by no means impossible to play. The combat has the potential to be fun for anyone willing to master its fast paced and frantic combat. It is possible to avoid each bullet and take out enemies quickly with fast eyes and reflexes. The problem is that it is just as easy to get overwhelmed, and, in my experience, this happened far too often. So much so that I would get stuck on a part and die ten to twenty times before being able to complete it. Each combat segment is set on a sort of track, and enemies come out in waves, making it so you memorize what type of enemy will come out and when, allowing you to eventually complete a difficult section. The boss fights play out in a similar fashion, consisting of three separate stages that grew harder each phase. The boss fights, much like standard combat phases, would commonly start out fun but could drag on for five to ten minutes, which made dying towards the end extremely frustrating because it would then make you start the engagement from the beginning. I could best compare this to taking five minutes to climb to the top of a ladder, falling down the ladder, and starting that five minutes it took to climb all over again, making it so that by the time I happen to finish climbing the ladder, it had taken six tries, and a half hour. Although that game does have checkpoints, with each one comes a new challenge and another horde of enemies. Another grievance is that you die very quickly, usually in one to two hits, depending on the projectile and mainly based on its size. The game has only one difficulty, which is “normal”, once you beat it you unlock the “iron man” mode. This mode doesn’t make the game any harder, it only makes it so that when you die, the game wipes all your progress and you have to start back at the menu and begin a fresh play through.
Despite this game being difficult, it only took between four and five hours to complete, and that was only due to how many times I got stuck on a particular part. Had the game been any easier or had I been more skilled, I could see it taking less than three hours. For a fifteen-dollar price tag, I would personally expect a game to last longer and deliver more content. The single player story is the only game mode to enjoy, and the formula/gameplay only changes very briefly towards the end when it offers three mini games to be played. These mini games are only slightly different than the puzzles throughout the game though, the main difference being the stakes and tone of the setting they are presented in. Repetition does not begin to set in though, and this is due purely to the length of the game.
Rise and Shine is also very derivative of other platformers, namely Ratchet and Clank. Specifically in its title and the fact that Rise carries Shine on his back, much like Ratchet does Clank. The game also has a very self-aware tone. The player is referred to in the game as “the guide” and the game often breaks the fourth wall. Much of the game makes blatant references to the Mario Bros. universe, changing slightly how the characters look and their names. This is by design, and is used as part of the game’s story, referring to its version of Mario as the King of Gamearth, but I fear that the developers decided to go this route to hold up this game’s weak story and characters by trying to make the player nostalgic. While the characters are not terrible, some of them are not in the game enough to form any kind of connection to the plot or be established as all that important or memorable. This is especially a problem in regards to Rise’s mother and father. The end of the game tries to evoke emotion, but ends up flopping due to a lack of background and character development.
Despite all of my complaints, this game is still very beautiful and unique artistically. The environments and backgrounds change with each scene, and everything in the game looks hand drawn. The music is simple, reminiscent of other games and does a good job of complementing the settings. The music also does a nice job of matching the pace of whatever is happening on screen, picking up when needed, and backing off when it’s not.
The Final Word
Rise and Shine is a very challenging platformer that relies heavily on references to other games to balance its lack of a good cast of characters. The combat can either flow smoothly, or become muddled down by its movement system and a screen full of enemies/projectiles. If you enjoy a challenge, this combat may be for you. If you struggle with a crowded screen and a hot temper, this game may not be for you. While I do believe the $14.99 price tag is a bit high for the length of the game, if you like challenging platformers and don’t mind a mediocre story, there are worse ways to spend the money.
– MonsterVine Rating: 3 out of 5 – Average