Rise & Shine - Fantastic Platformer Sets The Bar High For Indie Games In 2017 | A Short Pause Review
Well, this was quite the surprise.
Prior to recording the latest episode of our podcast this past weekend, I had never even heard of Rise & Shine, an arcade-shooter/puzzle-platformer hybrid from developer Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team (Yes! That’s really their name!). This talented studio is comprised of a small group of developers who have plenty of experience in the video game industry on titles like Plants vs. Zombies and Worms. With that type of resume, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by how finely tuned Rise & Shine is.
Title: Rise & Shine
Release Date: 01/13/17
Developer: Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team
Platforms: Xbox One (Reviewed), PC
Rise & Shine puts you in control of Rise, a young kid caught in the middle of an invasion by the nearby planet of Nexgen. As the game begins, Rise encounters one of Nexgen’s nasty Space Grunts slaughtering people in the local mall. Before Rise is blown to pieces, a hero known as the “Legendary Warrior” intervenes. The Legendary Warrior is able to neutralize the Space Grunt, but he suffers fatal injuries in the process. With no one else around, the Legendary Warrior entrusts Rise with his special weapon – a talking pistol that goes by the name of Shine – and informs him that the fate of Gamearth now rests in his hands. Shine is the key to a powerful weapon that can destroy the Space Grunts, meaning Rise must do whatever he can to deliver the sidearm to the king and end the alien invasion. Shine grants his wielder infinite “respawns,” which is vitally important as what lies ahead is a punishingly difficult platformer that will test your resolve throughout.
Shine is your primary weapon, and there are upgrades along the way that will be beneficial to your success. Electric bullets are useful against mechanical robots, sending them into a tizzy and buying you time to direct your attention to other, more immediate threats who must be dispatched. There are alternate firing modes as well. The RC Bullet Add-On allows you to control a single shot — where it goes and how fast it travels — but it’ll only work in certain instances. Then there are explosive rounds. They take much longer to fire and are harder to aim, but they’re capable of doing some heavy AOE (area of effect) damage should you target a group of enemies in close proximity of one another. Switching between bullet types and firing modes are tied to the right and left bumpers respectively. The left trigger draws your gun, while the right stick aims and the right trigger fires. There is a moderate learning curve when it comes to switching between firing modes and ammo types — especially in the heat of battle — but by the time you reach the final boss, you’ll appreciate the game’s control scheme and how well it works.
Now, I’m not an expert when it comes to platformers, but even on “normal” difficulty Rise & Shine doesn’t waste any time kicking your teeth in. You will die a lot in this game; the sooner as you accept this, the more you’ll enjoy your well-earned victories along the way. Some of these deaths will seem cheap if you’re not familiar with these kinds of masochistic games, but it’s all a part of the learning process. Landmines and airstrikes are just a few of the hazards that will no doubt catch you off-guard and result in insta-death. In fact, Rise can’t take more than two hits from anything before he dies a horrific, bloody death, so you better become acclimated to both your double jump and dashing abilities. This is especially true when it comes to tackling the game’s boss fights. Bosses are three-phase battles that will require quick thinking, both in regards to weapon management and crowd control. These are some of the hardest boss battles I’ve encountered in recent memory, but once I finally figured out the best strategy to defeat them, it felt incredibly rewarding and I found myself pumped up to fight my way through to the next challenger. There are a few puzzles along the way to help break up the carnage and, while they aren’t terribly challenging, the methods which you employ to solve them will help prepare you for many of the boss battles to come.
Complimenting the difficult nature of Rise & Shine is its absolutely gorgeous animation and art style. Even when enemies – or you for that matter – are reduced to a pile of bloody body parts (yes, this game is ultra violent), you can’t help but appreciate just how great this game looks, running at a sultry 60 frames per second. Cut-scenes are displayed in a beautifully drawn comic book fashion, and the writing is full of laugh-out-loud moments and video game references that won’t go unappreciated. Even though there is close to no voice-over work other than grunts and groans, the story is still quite entertaining and there are some neat twists along the way.
I only have two real complaints with this game. One of them is related to pride, and the other to greed. First, I found myself extremely frustrated with the final boss; it literally took me TWO hours to beat the SOB. The difficulty of this battle far exceeded every other encounter before it, and I was not prepared for that. I pushed myself to keep playing until I got the job done, but I know there are folks who don’t have that same type of patience, so for that reason I say, “Beware!” Second, this game ended up being very short. Even with the aforementioned two hours I spent dying over and over again, I still was able to complete this game in just over five hours. It’s a testament to just how good Rise & Shine’s gameplay and presentation is; I wanted more and I’m disappointed that the game can be beaten in one day. There is a higher difficulty setting that unlocks after completing your first play through – aptly named “Iron Man” – so for those of you who really enjoy getting curb stomped, I suppose you can squeeze another 5-6 hours out of the game with this new challenge. As for myself, I’m going to enjoy my time as a winner for a little while before I put myself through that gauntlet of madness.
It’s not often that I see these brutally difficult games through to the end, but Rise & Shine does so many things well. From its beautiful presentation to its fantastic gameplay, it was incredibly hard to put the controller down once the action picked up. The story could’ve easily consisted of talking heads spitting out fodder, but the narrative was clearly a point of interest in development and the engaging tale pairs nicely with the wonderful comic book aesthetic. Rise & Shine – although shorter than I would’ve liked – marks a fantastic start for gaming in 2017, and you better believe I’m going to keep my eyes peeled for any future projects from Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team…whew, that’s a mouthful!
Rise & Shine was reviewed on Xbox One using a digital copy provided to us by our friends at Evolve PR.
- Fantastic art style & animation
- Entertaining story
- Puzzles and mini-games are challenging
- Tight gameplay mechanics
- Formidable enemies and bosses
- Can be beaten in one sitting
- Difficulty may be off-putting for some