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Rise & Shine

Score: 88%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: Adult Swim Games
Developer: Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/ Platformer/ Shooter

Graphics & Sound:

When broadcast media companies aspire to game creation, the results have generally been... mixed. And thatís probably being generous, because the number of bad television-to-game adaptations alone could fill a large dumpster, if not a small landfill. Happily, Adult Swim succeeds where so many others have failed, likely because they contracted with a real game studio to make a real game instead of looking for an excuse to paste a franchise on an otherwise weak framework. Aside from that, there's something very "Adult Swim" about Rise & Shine in that it's built on great animation and it's full of sarcastic humor and parody.

This is a unique story set in a unique world, with characters that don't feel like they were just stamped out of another game's mold. It's a side-scrolling game about shooting, action and puzzle-solving, which on the face feels like a formula we've seen a million times before. The shiny visuals are a big part of what will draw you in and keep you there. There's minimal spoken dialogue, just grunts and vocalizations as a counterpart to speech bubbles, but there are some authentically funny lines each character has to deliver. Still funnier are all the game references that make Rise & Shine a love letter to gaming culture. Sometimes subtle, other times in your face, there's a stream of major and minor characters you'll recognize that populate this land of Gamearth.


Gameplay:

Rise & Shine claims to be about "bullet-based problem solving" and that needs some explanation, but we'll lead by saying it's awesome. This isn't a typical puzzle game, but it's plenty cerebral. What we loved was how Rise & Shine combines run-and-gun mechanics with twitchy puzzles, plus some slightly more relaxed approaches to puzzle-solving. There aren't many times you'll do anything here and call it relaxed, but the pace is at least varied, which keeps it interesting. The main character, Rise, is united with a special gun, Shine, that leads him on a big adventure as the world of Gamearth is falling apart around him. If you're bothered by the idea of a young boy toting a gun, just stop reading now because this game isn't for you. Don't let the cutesy graphics fool you, things are going to get bloody.

This isn't rail shooting, more simple 2D platforming with a focus on shooting. Everything. If it moves onscreen, you're trying to destroy it, and you'll eventually upgrade Shine to allow for more complex attacks. Guided bullets, grenades, and a choice between traditional or electrically-charged bullets lends itself to all kinds of interesting combinations. It's these combos that define the puzzles in Rise & Shine, and you'll need to learn which ammo is appropriate to each combat scenario. There's also a lot of jumping around and shooting like a maniac, bullet-hell style, that you'll need to do. The balance is great, both in terms of how quickly new abilities are introduced and used, and in the escalation of enemies, up to and including a series of screen-filling bosses.


Difficulty:

Both bosses and waves of enemies can at first seem completely overwhelming. The learning curve for controls don't help, but once you get used to them, it's actually a pretty logical and seamless arrangement. There's nothing adaptive here, no way to dial down the difficulty if you're struggling, just enemies that follow logical patterns and repeat over time. You learn them, muscle memory kicks in, and before you know, it you're coasting through challenges that once felt impossible. Rise & Shine is like the "good" hard games we remember fondly, rewarding practice and diligence.

That said, it's not a casual game and not for the faint of heart. You're not in super-hard territory here, but the basic expectation seems to be that you'll die a lot in order to learn enemy patterns and to get familiar with your weaponry. Doing speed runs comes later. If you're not okay with frequent gory deaths, this probably isn't the right game for you, but the joy of kicking butt against the odds overturns the occasional frustration with being stuck in some spots. Boss fights are particularly challenging, but that's boss fights for you, right?


Game Mechanics:

The controls in Rise & Shine are a bit more involved than a side-scrolling platformer, but not much more than the average twin-stick shooter. What takes the most getting used to is that you have separate actions to point, aim, and fire. The reason for this becomes more clear as you upgrade Shine. The process of aiming becomes way more involved with the remote-control bullet, as you get the ability to freely move the bullet after firing, including changing its speed. This plays a role in multiple puzzle challenges, which basically includes every boss battle. The other controls are relatively simple and feel like standard platforming fare, the notable exception being a cover mechanic. To offset some of the "bullet hell" moments, you can duck behind cover, but destructible environments mean you can't stay there very long.

Rise & Shine was a surprising amount of fun, a game we came into with no preconceived notions that delivered on many levels. Action and strategy blended with some bright visuals and fanciful characters makes for a short but memorable experience, and it doesn't feel quite like anything we've played in a while. Rise & Shine isn't aiming to be the next AAA franchise, but succeeds so completely that it left us wishing for more games that underpromise and overdeliver.


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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