Rise & Shine (Xbox One Review)
There’s a few wanky ways you could probably analyse Rise & Shine’s title. From the aspirations of a young boy turned hero to the alertness required just to be moderately successful throughout the short campaign. But we will spare you the details as any discussion of the title itself would probably take longer than the subject therein. After all Rise & Shine is a fairly simple game.
Simplicity is where Rise & Shine does, well, shine. Our narrative starts with you, Rise, taking on the momentous task of saving the world with a gun, called Shine, provided by The Legendary Hero. The story takes a chance to analyse and breakdown the tropes of the genre in quick succession while breaking the fourth wall, referring to the force propelling Rise from the offset as The Guides – AKA the player. It’s a neat trick that forces you to look a little deeper than you might in a standard sidescrolling shooter, but it falls apart when Rise & Shine suggests that the motives of Rise are yours and the direction given by you. It just doesn’t work. I didn’t give Rise the gun, nor did I point him in the direction of the sacred temple, why labour me with that responsibility?
And just like the deliberate attempts to address the player the mechanics feel all too deliberate. As a throwback to the games of the SNES and NES generation you are left toying with new mechanics as they are dropped on you early on the campaign, jumping from introduction to complex navigation. There is never really a point where the experiences of new powers grow or obvious visual clues are left out in the open on the first instance. Instead the knowledge is inferred by simply picking up the item with the expectation to use it. But that’s not to say it’s poorly done, in fact some sections are great fun when they aren’t tediously difficult. Although considering Rise & Shine’s tremendously short length you would expect these powers and abilities to have room to be fleshed out without a massive impact on the story, in fact it might have helped fight off the impending doom of the strenuously difficult sections.
It’s truly a shame that Rise & Shine isn’t longer as many of the areas you fight in have a great degree of detail and subtle nudged to the game’s inspirations. Every area is unique with the backgrounds bursting with detail to be unravelled. Yet you are never truly able to appreciate with large amounts of time being spent trying to avoid a litany of bullets and danger. One area stands out above the rest in this case, the swamp/golem area, as it introduces the player to unique puzzles, well a puzzle, which are never seen again. Much like so many aspects of Rise & Shine it feels like a missed opportunity.
For every step Rise & Shine takes in the right direction it seems to take it with so much care and caution that it never truly captures greatness. Even the story elements, conveyed through a fantastic comic book style, eventually suffer from the same fate as all the other aspects. These gorgeous stills lack any real impact as they feel at odds with a story that has a fairly dark twist. So when you see quirky quips with almost childlike cartoons balanced with death, despair, and confrontation something feels off. Especially seeing as Rise & Shine’s “dark twist” is so heavily foreshadowed that you know it from the offset.
Ultimately Rise & Shine just didn’t hit the spot for me. Failing to reach the end I often found myself frustrated with no real satisfaction. There was never a grand pay off for my achievements and several bugs relating to dying would often result in completely killing the game and starting several checkpoints back. If it weren’t for the difficulty of Rise & Shine I would imagine the story lasting no longer than an hour and a second play through might take minutes to mop up missed collectibles. I never felt that it was possible to complete areas on my first attempt as you were often sidelined by unexpected enemies or just underprepared. But when Rise & Shine hits a sweet spot you do really appreciate the approach and craftsmanship. Every mechanic and design is well thought out and made with the love of somebody that truly believes in what they are making, the only flaw being that these mechanics weren’t given ample time to breath and ideas were never truly fleshed out.