Rise & Shine
Genre: Action, Indie
Developer: Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team
Publisher: Adult Swim Games
Platform: PC/Xbox One
Rise & Shine is the first PC game from developer Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team and it’s a solid entry into the world of indie platformers.
The game centers around a character name Rise, as his home planet of Gamearth begins to fall to the Nexgen Empire. Rise is the last survivor of an attack on the Candy Mall, and he witnesses the Legendary Hero fall to a Nexgen space marine. With his final breath, the Legendary Hero (who resembles a certain Hylian Hero of Time) gives his sentient gun, Shine, to Rise.
Tongue-in-cheek humor is a constant in this game. It’s always reminding you that this is a game about video games, down to the enemy and level design. Crumbled statues of a princess adorned in pink surrounded by stars litter the environment, as do zombified brown mushrooms that assault you and can be defeated by jumping on them. Some of these winks are very over the top and obvious, such as the names of the stores in the mall, like Lara’s Garments, Bleszinski Chainsaws, and the Stage 9 club. Others are more subtle, like when Rise’s mom explains his father’s absence every two years in the fall, due to work. Shine even has the power to bring Rise back to life should a fatal blow occur… which will happen a lot by the way.
Rise & Shine is one of the most difficult platform shooters I have ever played. The plan was to initially play the game with a controller, but the sheer difficulty of some of the encounters required the more precise aim of a keyboard and mouse. Using a mouse provides a crosshair for Rise, and with the staggering amount of bullets, grenades and missiles being shot at you, your aim needs to be true or you’ll get overwhelmed. There’s a regenerating health system, but damage is incredibly inconsistent. Sometimes you will take damage from a missile and other times it results in a complete death. This adventure is definitely not for those who get frustrated easily, as you’ll be repeating sections constantly.
The control scheme has a steep learning curve. Pulling Shine out to attack slows down Rise’s movement, you can’t jump and shoot at the same time, and you can only dash while on the ground. I constantly found myself at odds with the controls, trying to dash in mid-air because I felt like I should be able to follow up the standard jump with an air dash. There’s a cover system that’s implemented sparingly, and being able to shoot down enemy projectiles gives you a bit of a defense, but overall Rise is incredibly susceptible to death.
Luckily, the save system is incredibly gracious and generally spawns you at the start of an encounter. This keeps the repetition of sections you have already completed to a minimum, although a hard reset rolls you back to the start of a stage. If the system wasn’t so forgiving, the blistering difficulty would be a downfall. Instead, the game transforms into you recognizing your mistakes and reversing them with the next try. The respawn system is even used in some clever puzzles, but these are too few and far between to carry the game.
Others include a guide-the-bullet puzzle system that allows Shine to shoot around objects and navigate bullets through laser gates and such to open doors. This of course makes Rise vulnerable, so make sure you unequip this ability before entering combat. Elemental bullets can help augment the various abilities and have different combat effects, and swapping between the abilities and bullet types is effortless.
Play it! Rise & Shine is tough as nails. If you like incredibly difficult platformers, this game has good value for 8-10 hours of gameplay, and it’s story provides a running commentary about how retro games are better than modern games. The nods to the gaming days of yore are welcome, but Rise & Shine doesn’t bring that winking retro aesthetic into its gameplay. There was a constant longing for it to do something more clever with its mechanics, with a hope that it would lean into retro gaming tropes even more. When it was smart and doing something new, it was near perfect, but those moments are sparse. The developers were incredibly wise with the respawn system, and it saves the game from being a frustrating platformer. Instead, Rise & Shine demands perfect execution.
Rise & Shine was reviewed on PC with a Steam Code provided by Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team. Gameplay was split between mouse and keyboard controls and an Xbox One controller. This review reflects completion of the story mode on normal difficulty.