Rise and Shine (Switch) Review
Pays homage to classic games
Lush, animated art style
Soundtrack not very memorable
Pain and Gain
Some games, when you play them, give you the sense that the developers have a lot of respect for the medium and its storied history. This is most assuredly one of those games. With it’s mix of running and gunning that brings to mind the best of the Contra‘s and the Metal Slug‘s, developer Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team brings the pain and the nostalgia in equal measures with their latest title, Rise and Shine.
Rise and Shine tells the story of Rise, a young boy who finds himself tasked with saving the world, after being given the tough-talkin’, eyeball-sportin’ pistol named Shine. The story was nothing terribly original: an invading force has come to destroy the world and only our underdog protagonist can thwart evil and save the day.
The saving grace for our unlikely hero is that the world in which he lives is a delightful tongue-in-cheek reference to gaming, named Gamearth. Besides that, references to other game franchises are abundant, both in dialogue and in visual references, usually in the background. It might be subtle, but it’s a nice little nod to those gamers who are can match the fervent fanboy-ness (is that a word?) of the hobby that I have, and apparently that the developers have as well.
From a gameplay standpoint, this title takes the best of the run-and-gun style and throws in some light puzzles for good measure. As you wield the wise-crackin’ Shine and take down a plethora of baddies, done by raising your weapon with the left trigger, aiming with the right stick, and ultimately firing with the right trigger, you’ll find that the gunplay is satisfying. Scattered throughout the level are powerups aplenty, which augment your bullets with different elemental abilities and, more importantly, the ability to slow down time.
My favorite puzzles revolved around the use of the slow-down mechanic, which can be toggled on and off with the touch of a button. This will bring up the available transmitters in the area, which emit a large blinking circle. As time slows down, Rise can fire a bullet and guide it through the blinking circles until it hits its target. In the context of puzzles, these targets can be switches to open a door, or rocks that need to be cleared in order to proceed. Even a few boss battles took advantage of this mechanic, putting glowing weak points in hard to reach places that required a little more finesse.
This game is hard, you guys. The Metal Slug and Contra namedrop earlier wasn’t just to impress you, even though I know it did. Rise and Shine takes inspiration from the school of game design that required constant vigilance, in order to dodge bullets and enemies and somehow return fire. Truly old-school, in the sense that just a couple of those bullets will send Rise right back to a checkpoint. The good news is that Rise has been given unlimited respawns, in a chuckle-worthy in-game justification for the constant deaths. Praise the Creators for that.
From a visual standpoint, it’s obvious that Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team, who might actually have the longest name for a video game developer ever, has put a lot of care into the presentation of this game. During regular gameplay, the lush, cartoony art style wouldn’t look out of place in one of publisher Adult Swim’s animated shows. During cutscenes, however, which take place in between levels, the visuals take on a distinctly comic book approach, complete with dialogue bubbles and the like. These were invariably highlights during my playthrough, and helped Rise and Shine rise (and shine) above it’s indie competitors.
The sound design was a little less inspired. The themes that play through each level suited them well enough, but nothing especially stood out to me. In games like this, where the focus is less on the atmosphere and more on the action, there is a tendency to discount the importance of music and sound when compared to longer, story-driven experiences. There are some people, however, that have to have music as part of a full, enjoyable experience, and these people may be a little disappointed at the lack of earworms in this otherwise stellar package.
Indie developers have a tall order to fill these days. Frequently, they’re vying for gamers’ attention in a crowded market, trying every variation on classic formulas in order to strike gold. In the case of Rise and Shine, Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team (that’s the last time I’m typing that) and their publisher, Adult Swim Games, have certainly made a valiant effort. Rise and Shine combines the best parts of classic run-and-gun action and more modern indie puzzlers to create something quite entertaining, and a worthy addition to any gamer’s library.
Rise and Shine is available now on Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and Steam for $14.99. If you want a wonderfully done run-and-gunner with some light puzzles and some old-school challenge, wield your legendary gun and download it now.