Rise and Shine: solving puzzles, paying homage

Review: this video game is engaging and the art is top-notch, but the story borrows a little too heavily from classics in the genre

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Rise and Shine
Developer: Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team
Publisher: Adult Swim Games
ESRB Rating: Mature
Platform: PC
Price: $16.99

Rise and ShineEDMONTON, Alta. Feb. 9, 2017 /Troy Media/ – Rise and Shine mixes side-scrolling shooter gameplay and some light platforming with a novel approach to puzzle solving. It boasts some very attractive art and the narrative is delivered in slick comic-book style. The game is enjoyable, exploring interesting themes, although its storyline and humour can falter.

The game has lush, richly-detailed art. Nicely drawn and coloured set pieces and characters immediately pulled me in.

The game dumps the player in the middle of a warzone, and the bright, stylish look, the background action and some nice sound effects made me feel like I was in a battlefield. And I wanted to keep playing to see where the artists would take me. A large part of the game occurs in similar environments, but it makes enough artistic stops along the way to keep up the interest.

The narrative between gameplay is impressive – between a cartoon and a comic book. Juxtaposed over the game’s dark tone, this can create an unsettling sensation.

Most games in this style re-spawn your character after a death and you can attempt the challenge again. But your character here is aware that he keeps dying – he feels every death. And he’s just a little boy.

Rise and Shine heavily references and pays homage to well-known gaming franchises. Important figures in this world are not-quite-lawsuit-inducing facsimiles of much-loved characters from other games.

The game plays heavily on the story tropes that gamers have come to expect: a young boy, chosen by destiny or chance to become the saviour of his planet. But not many games acknowledge that this boy is likely to die repeatedly over the course of the game.

Framing itself as a video game within a video-game world allows Rise and Shine to poke fun at games, while treating them with reverence. And it also lets the developers confront the player about the repeated death of their boy-hero.

The video-game world is also Rise and Shine’s greatest weakness. Gaming references coming at you from all directions quickly become tiresome. The humour is essentially a one-trick pony mostly based on other games.

The story is flat and predictable, as if the developers depend on the player to enjoy the constant throwback references as opposed to offering original storytelling. Paying infrequent or subtle homage to games you love is great, but basing a storyline around it doesn’t work for me. The narrative lacks its own identity and is soon forgettable.

Luckily, the gameplay saved the day. With the right mouse, you control an aiming reticule and you move with W A S D keys. You can pop in and out of cover – if that cover doesn’t get destroyed. You have two types of bullets that affect enemies differently: standard and electrified. You can fire these bullets in three ways: normal shot, lob and guide with the mouse. This lets you tackle different enemies in various ways and overcome puzzles that spring up throughout.

The puzzles are my favourite part of the game. Solving them with your gun is a great addition to the genre. More puzzles and bullet choices would be great, since by the end of the game I still only had normal and electric, which I received near the start.

The boss battles pit you against huge enemies and it’s satisfying to overcome them. You need to be patient and learn the patterns for each boss and, when an opening appears, make use of your trick shots to deal a hefty blow. Each boss is like a puzzle of their own.

Even the combat against average enemies is more puzzle-like in the latter stages. There’s a big difficulty spike right near the end, which forces you to watch for patterns and figure out which enemies to concentrate on. No mindless blasting here – pay attention and take a strategic approach.

Rise and Shine is a fun and fast-paced game, yet still requires patience and strategy. Using bullets to solve puzzles is a great innovation that should have been expanded on. The game has great art and mature tones that mix surprisingly well. It’s marred by its bland story and insistent, tiring references, but is still worth checking out.

Troy Media columnist Sam Stewart, an actor, has a diploma in theatre studies and a degree in film studies. He also works in the tech industry and loves to indulge his lifelong passion for video games, from the classics to new releases. He tries to look at video games from a broad perspective: as a gamer, but also as someone who wants to know what a game is telling its audience, how it’s advancing the genre and industry, and how it challenges the player.

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