The shooter genre is one that I grew up playing, and I am glad that it has had a stable relationship with fans and developers alike over the years. There is just something visceral and satisfying about blasting through waves and waves of enemies that are bent on your destruction and coming out on the other side victorious (and relatively unscathed if you have skills like I do, ‘ahem’). Adult Swim Games and Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team (SAHDMT) have dipped their toes into this genre to bring us Rise & Shine, which promises to deliver on the genre’s staple of gameplay features while adding a few new ones of its own. Set in the world where classic video games live, jump into the shoes of Rise as he attempts to save his world from the evil Space Grunts sent to destroy his ability to respawn.
As far as the story of Rise & Shine goes, it’s actually very creative and was a big draw for me when I first heart that SAHDMT was working on it. As Rise, you suddenly find yourself smack dab in the middle of a war against aggressors from the planet Nextgen. Immensely large soldiers with just as immense guns are invading the world of classic video games, Gamearth. Special situations call for special weapons and Shine, your sentient and trusty six-shooter, is just what Dr. Mario has ordered. This game is an arcade shooter through and through but what sets it apart from the pack is that it offers several different types of ammunition for Shine that you can use to make your way through the many levels in the game.
I have to give credit where credit is due, and I’m not saying this just because I was provided a review copy of the game, but Rise & Shine has some of the best looking visuals in the genre to date. In a word: beautiful. As I loaded up the game, what immediately struck me was the extremely high fidelity of the in-game graphics; I actually thought I was watching a cartoon on Nickelodeon. However, as I began playing the game, I realized that this is nothing content-wise that the kid friendly channel would show. In the words of the developer, “All the backgrounds in Rise & Shine are ginormous, hand-drawn illustrations with different parallax scroll layers, so every step you take is completely different with no repeating elements or tiling.” I can honestly attest that statement is completely and true and you will be astonished at how good it looks on your gaming machine.
While there is no recorded voice-over audio in Rise & Shine, the music and sound effects more that make up for the absence of the any actual spoken dialogue. For the record, the characters in the game communicate through word bubbles which only adds to the live-action comic book-like presentation of the game. The music is at the same time ominous and exhilarating while providing the perfect backdrop for your journey to save Gamearth. The sound effects as well serve to add to the adventure with loud explosions rattling your eardrums along with the sounds of laser fire, rockets and fusion cannons filling the air and trying to stop your advance on the level bosses. SAHDMT revealed that all of the in-game audio and music was composed by Jerry Goldsmith Award nominee, Damián Sánchez.
I have to say that I didn’t dislike my time on Gamearth and I was fairly amused at all the nods to the great games of the past, but there were a few glaring issues that kept me from truly enjoying my time there. For starters, the game is brutally punishing from the start and there is no feature to adjust the difficulty of the game. You are going to die, and you are going to die a lot. While this isn’t inherently a bad thing, it’s definitely going to turn away those players that just want to do some mindless shooting for an hour or two before bed. As it stands, you would never be able to get to sleep as you will still be very pissed off from playing the same level for the umpteenth time and not being able to complete it. You have to think your way through the levels and in the process, you are going to be shot, blown-up, electrocuted, burned, slammed, blasted and decapitated many times before you get to the end of the level. That part was not fun at all and I just found myself getting frustrated and not having any fun.
The other issue that I found was with the aiming and shooting system in the game that I just was never able to get completely comfortable with. It’s ‘somewhat’ of a twin stick shooter where you use the left stick to move, the right stick to aim and the right trigger to fire. Early on in the game you earn a laser sight for Shine but it only goes a short way so if you keep your eye on it, you have a hard time aiming exactly where you want your shot to go. What I figured out after dying for the 50th time was that there is a bright flash point that shows up on the enemy when you have it pointed to somewhere on its body. Focusing on that point helped a little but using the right stick to aim was hard to do as the location of Rise on the level is constantly changing as you are moving forwards and backwards so you are continually having to reevaluate where you are pointing to get the shot. At times, it really could be a frustrating effort in futility.
Rise & Shine is a very ambitious attempt at the arcade shooter genre but it feels unpolished gameplay-wise and still needs to have a few things tweaked here and there. The addition of a lock-on feature would definitely be welcome as well as the ability to adjust the difficulty level for those that don’t want to have to throw their controller at their TV screens in a fit of rage. Other than those issues, the game has potential but just falls a bit short at the moment in its ability to rope the player in and to keep her/him there, completely immersed in the experience, for however long they wish to be. If you don’t mind the challenge, I would so go ahead and download a copy now as its available on Steam now for $14.99 otherwise, steer clear of this one as you wont have as much fun.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.