It’s not uncommon for a game to show extremely well over the course of a demos or a convention showing, only to fail to deliver on that initial promise. It really pains me to see that happen, and I must regrettably report that Rise & Shine, the latest from developer Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team and Adult Swim Games suffers that fate.
It’s a shame, because there’s no denying Rise & Shine starts strong, wasting no time introducing you to a colorful world to shoot through and the throwing you into the roles of the titular duo, a boy named Rise and his gun, Shine, as you begin your side-scrolling trek to mow down hordes of robots and the like. As you make your way through the levels, you quickly acclimate to the game’s concept of having two different ammo types (electric and standard), as well as the various way you can modify your shots, such as making your ammunition explosive.
It doesn’t quite bring on the same feeling or challenge as classic side-scrolling shooters or the manic nature of a “bullet hell” game, but it does require a fair bit of strategy that helps set it aside from other games in the genre. I was pleased to see that the game encouraged me not to just run in and mash the fire button until everything was dead, and instead pushed me toward tactically assessing the situation, switching up ammo types and prioritizing the more dangerous enemies over others while dodging oncoming enemies and projectiles. It’s a strong concept that gives a great first impression, which is unfortunate, as it gets really old, really fast.
While at first I was tempted to play smart and strategize, I found many of the standoffs to be far too hectic to approach in that manner. There’s a clear intent to make a lot of your gunfights to feel like a sort of bullet puzzle, requiring thought and precise execution, but I eventually just ended up getting frustrated and avoiding energy blasts while I mowed down every robot in my path, which became more and more difficult as the game started to delve more into a “bullet hell” level of screen coverage.I often found myself dying repeatedly and straight up rage quitting the game. I just couldn’t handle it it at times.
I’m no stranger to difficult shooters or side-scrollers, and actually rank classic shoot-em-ups as one of my all-time favorite genres. You die a lot in those games, too. However, rarely do deaths in those games feel cheap, and like the game was taking advantage of you. Nine times out of ten, when you die in those games, it’s your fault for not playing well enough, slipping up or missing a crucial pick-up. Rise & Shine doesn’t do that, and deaths after a grueling firefight feel vindictive and unfair, and that’s a problem.
It certainly doesn’t help that when you’re in a chaotic firefight you can’t really tell where you’re aiming, since the reticle is represented by a glowing dot that is incredibly easy to lose track of in the heat of the moment, especially when the only thing preventing you from dying and starting the whole encounter over is a few precise shots.
The biggest criticism I have about Rise & Shine ultimately has to do with the core gameplay and design. Playing rise and shine feels more or less the same in the opening scenes as it does at the end. Sure, you have various tactics and ammo types at your disposal, but more often than not they end up being underutilized, and even the final encounter can, for the most part, be completed just by dodging blasts and firing standard ammo at the boss.
Like I said, Rise & Shine gives a great first impression. When I first tried it at E3, I couldn’t wait for the chance to play more, and when I saw that there was an chance to review it, I jumped at the opportunity. Having played the finished product, though, I’m legitimately bummed out.
There’s a lot to like about the game, for sure. The art is charming as hell, and the motion and shooting (when you can see where you’re aiming) feel great, there’s no denying that it’s an aesthetically pleasing and tight game, but it just drops the ball and doesn’t provide nearly enough variety to stay fresh, and I don’t see many people seeing Rise’s journey through, and that’s a damn shame considering how much promise it showed just a few months ago.
Rise & Shine was reviewed using a Steam key provided by the publisher.