Can a game lose itself when it makes too many somewhat clever references to gaming history instead of focusing on its own plot? Does it tend to become somewhat bi-polar in figuring out what it wants to be? Perhaps.
Rise & Shine is a third person platform shooter made by Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team, and is published by Adult Swim Games who have had some decent releases with Head Lander and Small Radios, Big Televisions.
You play as a young man, named Rise, who is given a talking, snarky, passive aggressive gun named Shine; hence the title. The goal is to get Shine back to the castle to the hands of the king. From the get go, someone who is well versed in gaming culture will recognize the not so subtle nods to popular characters and the some of the gaming tropes they the script seems to parody. This is not just an event or two, as the game consistently gives us many “nudge and wink” moments throughout the game. While this is fun as a kind of treasure hunt, (I really liked blowing the head of the dog that resembles the mutt from Duck Hunt), it does a bit of damage to the overall story. Back to that in a minute.
The powers that Shine possesses is unlimited ammo. Along the way, you will find upgrades for it, electric bullets, controlling the trajectory of the bullet, and others I won’t mention just for spoiler reasons. The point of these upgrades is to solve puzzles and defeat enemies. For example, to proceed to the right too progress through the level, there may be a door in your way. To get through the door, you must activate a mechanism that is way past your reach. When you set Shine on remote control, you can guide the bullet through a minefield of detonators to release it. Another use for your gun is to switch between bullet types to defeat enemies. A boss could appear and have a glow around them that indicates what they are defenseless to, which you would switch out the ammo with a click of a button to defeat them.
I know I am making this sound easy but it’s not. During all of this you must dodge an array of enemy fire, which you can shoot away with Shine, while figuring out the puzzle of how to defeat the boss. Rise & Shine can be a very difficult game at times. Admittedly, I got frustrated at the beginning of the game because of my love for just running and gunning. There is a level of patience involved when progressing through this game as you will die…a lot. Trial and error will be involved in playing this game, and while the answer may be staring you in the face much of the time, the challenge comes from balancing the defeat of smaller enemies to beat the boss, as I stated before.
The issue I have with Rise & Shine is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be in terms story. Most of the time it seems that it is nothing more a satire on videogame history with its self-referential dialogue. A small percentage of the game has some original moments even if they are not fleshed out well. Characters show up either to be cannon fodder or just exist with no real motivation what so ever. For a game that is only a couple of hours long, there is only so much one can do which cramming in the content I suppose, but I just wished that it took itself a little bit more seriously than it did. Then again, it has a talking gun so maybe I am being too harsh.
In the end, despite its wonderful coloring and art, Rise & Shine is an okay shooter with a lot of good puzzle solving elements. If you enjoy a challenge, albeit a short one, then Rise & Shine may be the game you are looking for. In terms of having story, it falls short mostly because of the comedic self-referential nature it chooses to take on. While it’s fun to pick out the references from Mario, Half Life, and Gears of war; I just wanted something more in the story that it is telling. Rise & Shine can be fun at times, but loses its luster as it can get frustrating as well.
Final Score: 3 out of 5
Rise & Shine (PC [reviewed], Xbox One)
Developer: Super Mega Team
Publisher: Adult Swim Games
Release: January 13, 2017