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Shine on, you crazy diamond: Rise & Shine review

Rise & Shine is what would happen if the classic games of our childhoods all got together and shot current gen gaming right in the face. It’s the result of a long labour of love from the guys over at Super Mega Team, a run & gun through nostalgic throwbacks and bright new innovation.

The old truly meets the new in Rise’s vibrant levels. As the titular Rise and his legendary talking gun Shine blast their way through the invading Space Grunt army – an endless horde of muscled, power-armoured meatheads and massive robots with lasers blasting from every orifice – the game pays homage to titles that defined our childhood whilst taking friendly potshots at the new.

I’m gonna call you a No-cust.

No effort has been spared here to set Rise & Shine apart from the crowd. Beneath the gorgeous, detailed backdrops and nods to older games (a certain legendary warrior with pointy ears hands Shine over to Rise at the beginning, and you ride an elevator past a statue of something definitely shaped like Mario) lies a masterfully crafted game with clever mechanics and interesting twists. Swapping between intense cover-hugging shootouts and reflex based puzzles, levels speed by at a breakneck pace, new powerups and attachments for Shine dropping at a steady rate.

Alive with colour and charm, you’d be forgiven for assuming this was a breezy, kid friendly experience, but Rise and Shine is a gauntlet of challenges. Not only does it reward precision and awareness, the bullet puzzles and enemy threats constantly demand it. Fail to respond to an enemy’s massively broadcasted attack and you will be obliterated, blown into chunks, electrocuted, grinded to paste. The combat is ruthless but fair, making the victories you scrape all the sweeter, and your missteps and poor timing unbearably personal. You can’t blame Rise & Shine for that eighteenth death in a row – just your stupid, slow hands.

Every backdrop is packed with neat details and not-so-subtle references, making each trek from left to right a gallery of fond memories.

It’s not perfect – sometimes the various abilities don’t gel together as well as they could, and if you’re playing with a controller, it can feel fiddly. A lot of the later challenges require to swap between bullet types and abilities on the fly whilst dashing, jumping, and taking cover. It can feel a little too complicated for the dimensions it takes place in. Difficulty dips and spikes in unpredictable patterns, and the checkpoints often placed just before insta-kill hazards make fighting your way past them more chore than challenge.

The intention is to call back to days long since past, and perhaps it says more about my comfortable, lazy gamer habits now that those things frustrate me. When I was a kid, I would spend hours trying to beat one level. It would be my sole purpose, an all-consuming obsession. When I won, I wasn’t rewarded with glowing loot drops or movie-quality cutscenes, maybe just a small amount of sprites and text fleeting across the screen, and, most valuable of all, the knowledge that I had won. Not thanks to recharging health bars or chest high walls, but because of hard-earned skill (and no small amount of sheer dumb luck). The game’s first boss – the towering mech in the above screenshot – throws telegraphed attacks at you in such rapid succession that you don’t even have time to think about your response. In the immortal words of Shia LeBeouf, you just have to do it. There’s no time to react, just to act. It took me the best part of half an hour to take down the three stages of his health bar and I’m fairly sure I experienced the entire five stages of grief throughout.

My favourite thing about this game is the sobbing, bandaged sun in the background.

This is Rise & Shine ‘s ethos. You won’t beat everything first try. Solutions will surprise you.  There will be moments where you want to snap your keyboard in half over your knee and delete your entire Steam account, but it only makes the eventual victories all the sweeter, because, for the most part, it’s completely fair. If the difficulty level sounds offputting, if you like a more leisurely experience – at least try Rise & Shine. It’s made with so much love, and even more skilled game development. Yes, tight checkpoints and the occasionally iffy cover system do make some parts of it a pain in the arse. But it constantly surprises you with new jokes and challenges. It works relentlessly hard to live up to the ‘think n’ gun’ game it proclaims to be. Rise and Shine is made by people who love games for people who love games, with a little bit of something for everyone who plays it.

THE TL;DR:

  • Gorgeous hand-drawn levels and a beautiful score accompany an old-school romp through some remixed classic game mechanics. Just superb.
  • Clever puzzles and satisfying shooting occasionally hamstrung by irritating checkpoints and bullet-hell cover shoot-outs.
  • A simple but exceptionally well crafted story with plenty of winks and nods to gaming history.
  • Using cover is occasionally dull and repetitive compared to how vital and energetic the rest of the game is.
  • Sharp and uneven learning curve – you’ll be breezing through combat one moment and weeping into your keyboard the next. Despite this the challenges rarely feel cheap, beating the environmental hazards and enemy hordes is consistently satisfying.
  • Embodies everything good about indie game development, a refined, complete experience. It might seem familiar on the surface but this game has heaps of hidden depths and deeper meanings. A constant pleasure to play.

94%

 

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