Rise & Shine Review (Xbox One)

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Rise & Shine is a fun cross between a Puzzle Platformer and a Bullet Hell Shooter.  It is the latest game from the indie developer Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team, and their first foray onto consoles and PC.

You play as Rise, a young boy and resident of GameEarth. Rise has been thrown into the middle of an interplanetary war, and the game is not afraid of letting you know it. Rise & Shine opens to a scene of a dear friend being blasted apart by a giant robot as he is telling you to run away and save yourself. You then flash-back to one hour prior, where you are at a shopping mall. There you witness a space grunt murdering all of the shoppers as you take cover behind a wall. I won’t go into too much detail (I don’t want to spoil things) but eventually you get out and are given a self-aware super gun named Shine.

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Shine has some great abilities. Not only does he have unlimited ammo and unlimited re-spawns, he also makes fun and sarcastic remarks, as well as video game references! Although I would  say his most useful feature is his ability to shoot your enemies. Shine has two types of bullets: metal and plasma. Metal bullets are good for taking out living enemies, whereas plasma bullets are better at taking out mechanical ones. That may seem overly simple, but there are also three different firing methods. Straight fire is your generic shooting method. Grenade shooting lobs a projectile that you can detonate later by pulling the trigger a second time. The most interesting firing method of the three options are the remote control bullets. With these you can control the flight path of a bullet any way you want as long as you stay within areas of effect.

All of these firing methods and bullet types mix together in cool ways for both battle and puzzle solving. There are often times where you need to weave a bullet through a maze, or place a grenade and time its explosion. This puzzles can be challenging, but I never got stuck on one long enough to be frustrated.

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Rise & Shine follows a normal progression, getting more and more challenging as you advance through the game. This is great because it is always very satisfying to get past a tricky part. However, I feel some of the battles are a little too tough. In some of the later stages, I found myself dying over and over again for what felt like hours. Much of my problem was from how long a battle would last before giving you another checkpoint. I also believe they went a little crazy with including so many different enemy types to deal with at once. My overall strategy may have needed a bit of fine-tuning, but I will say it was frustrating to be dispatched so swiftly thanks to the large number of enemies. To the game’s credit, you are given unlimited re-spawns, and the checkpoints scattered around the level are fairly common. That way even if you do get stuck, you don’t  have to start at the beginning of a level.

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What causes this game to really Shine (pun intended) are all of the references to other video games. Rise & Shine is set in a beautifully detailed and highly stylized world called GameEarth. As the name may indicate, this world is just video game reference after video game reference. There are buildings made of game systems, quotes from tons of games, and versions of iconic characters that are just slightly different enough from their actual counterparts to not violate any copyright laws. References are hidden everywhere, and finding them is one of my favorite parts of Rise & Shine.

The story is nothing amazing. It’s the standard “We’re under attack you must take this item someplace to save the world!” kind of adventure. The narrative is mostly focused on Rise, Shine, and the invading space marine army, but there are some other interesting people you meet along the way. One of my favorite parts is when you visit NPC Island. Here all the people are funny parodies of  typical NPCs. They will talk to you but seem oblivious to what you are actually saying. All they do is repeat themselves constantly and ask you to play their mini-games. Yes, the mini-games are decent, but the best part by far was their dialog.

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The setting and art direction are almost reason enough to give Rise & Shine a try. The graphics are cartoonish but there is still detail in every part of the world. Buildings are damaged and gritty, and multiple layers of scrolling backgrounds cause the world to feel larger than the small part you actually interact with. Music is not playing very often during Rise & Shine, and usually I would say that this is a bad thing, but for this game it really works. The lack of music makes the sound effects and background noises stand out, and then when music does play it really adds to the moment. All of these things add together to make GameEarth feel alive.

Overall, I really enjoyed playing Rise & Shine. At times it was frustrating, but in the end I had a great experience. Shooting countless enemies while dodging bullets and missiles left and right is time well spent. Throw in awesome game references, and a beautiful setting, then you are sure to have a great time. Rise & Shine is definitely worth the $15 it costs, and I recommend that you give it a shot!

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