Rise & Shine is an entertaining and original game that's just too short for its asking price

Rise & Shine is an incredibly short game, especially considering the $15 price. I got it for $9, mostly Microsoft Rewards money, and I’m not sure I’d recommend it at that price because it really is 90 minutes long. However, if you can find it for $5 or so what you get is a puzzle platformer with some pretty decent action elements and really nice presentation. It’s far from the best game I’ve ever played but it’s also not quite like anything else I can think of, and that alone makes it worth experiencing.

The detail level on the 2D art is quite remarkable. This is how I thought games would look in the future when I was a kid in the 80s.
The detail level on the 2D art is quite remarkable. This is how I thought games would look in the future when I was a kid in the 80s.

Rise & Shine is yet another game with a narrative based on the conceit that the characters know they are video game characters. Rise is a young boy on the planet of Gameearth whose father is a famous hero who regularly saves the world. At the beginning of the game he comes into possession of a magic gun, Shine, that not only gives him the ability to defeat the rampaging hordes of NexGen but also infinitely respawn should he happen to die (and while the game has an Ironman mode and can be beaten without dying, I died a lot in my short time with it.) From there he travels through a few standard video game environments including a zombie-infested cave and an RPG town until he defeats the leader of the NexGen forces and saves the day. The game has 14 levels, but calling them levels is perhaps overstating things. They are all bite-sized, consisting of no more than 3-5 combat encounters and puzzles. The game does have some limited replay value in the form of hidden collectibles and a few minigames, but it’s incredibly short and not overly difficult. It also has extremely generous checkpointing, which means that even if you struggle with an area (which I did with a number of them) you can keep playing it over and over until you get past it. I very much appreciated the game not wasting my time by padding itself out, but if I’m going to spend $15 on a game this short then I want to love every second of it, and Rise & Shine just isn’t at that level. It’s merely pretty good.

What is great is the look of Rise & Shine. It has incredibly detailed art work and while it looks a little bit like a Flash game, that aesthetic works within the story. I would say that Rise & Shine in some ways looks like a cartoonier Metal Slug, with a little less detail than that series but a brighter color palette and, of course, much higher definition art. The animation is less impressive, without any of Metal Slug’s amazing multi-part boss destructions and pretty static backgrounds, but the game is self-aware about this and you can’t really expect an indie team to match the work of the titans of 90s 2D arcades. Rise & Shine looks great overall, from its detailed worlds to the way Rise’s blood spurts when he dies (despite the cartoony artwork and child protagonist the game is very violent, with exploding body parts and large spurts of blood.) Rise & Shine also sounds great. There’s even 5.1 separation despite it being a 2D game. I actually set up my new surround sound speakers in between two levels and on the level after they were hooked up I could hear fire cracking behind me as I advanced through a burning city. The music is a little generic but features vocals and good instrumentation (as opposed to the chiptunes you might expect) and would fit in perfectly in a much higher budget game. I enjoyed Rise & Shine’s presentation, with the only fly in the ointment being the comic book style cut scenes, which were fine but nothing special and are not voice acted. Cut scenes are short and the story is clearly not a focus, so it’s really a nit-pick.

Comic style cut scenes are fine, and the story is serviceable but nothing special.
Comic style cut scenes are fine, and the story is serviceable but nothing special.

So what’s unique about Rise & Shine’s gameplay? Not so much the disparate parts as the way they mix together. Rise & Shine is, at its heart, a puzzle platformer. Shine collects some different ammunition types and other abilities during the brief journey, and figuring out how to use those abilities and ammunition types to overcome obstacles, be they enemies or just puzzles, is the heart of the game. Many of the puzzles involve navigating bullets around obstacles to hit switches, using your gun’s remote control upgrade, while others involve interacting with bits of the environment to get past an obstacle, including a couple that are pretty clever and I won’t spoil here. Puzzle platformers are incredibly common these days, though usually without Rise & Shine’s visual polish, but Rise & Shine also has substantial action elements. Enemy grunts and robotic drones swarm you, and you have to use a basic platforming arsenal (double jump and dash) as well as a dual-stick aiming set-up, to beat them. The game also has cover mechanics, which feel a bit tacked on and more of a jokey reference to a particular character in the game than something substantial, but they work and are needed for certain fights. The interesting thing about Rise & Shine’s combat sequences is that they are also often quite puzzley. Many enemy shots are destructible and figuring out how to blast away the bullets headed towards Rise while also going on offense can be a challenge. Then there are different types of enemies who are vulnerable to different types of shots, and managing switching to the right weapon for the right foe in the midst of frenetic chaos is also a challenge. Finally, in boss levels the game often takes a break from the action to throw a simple puzzle at you, generally navigating a bullet into position to damage a weak spot that’s shielded from Rise. The combination of frantic action and puzzle mechanics isn’t something I’ve seen blended in quite this way, at almost a 1 to 1 ratio but it mostly works and makes for a cohesive game despite smashing together two very different styles. The last game I can think of that did something similar was Super Time Force, another game I really liked, but the puzzles in that game were of the fast paced environmental variety rather than Rise & Shine’s slower paced navigation challenges.

These remote control bullet sections are heavily featured and while they're fine as puzzles go, they don't hold a candle to the involved puzzles of a game like Inside.
These remote control bullet sections are heavily featured and while they're fine as puzzles go, they don't hold a candle to the involved puzzles of a game like Inside.

Despite these positives…Rise & Shine is good but not great, and as mentioned is very very short. The puzzles are fine for what they are but are relatively easy and the controls can feel a little finnicky on some of those that require precise timing, meaning that even if they’re easy they may require multiple tries to actually get right. The run and gun action is better, but those sections are extremely short, and the cover based shooting bits can be a little repetitive, with enemies soaking up huge amounts of damage before they finally die. I would have liked longer more free-form levels and a greater emphasis on the run and gun segments, but those are probably much more expensive to produce than the puzzles and it feels like corners were cut to keep the game within its budget. The generous checkpoints avoid frustration but also mean that the game can be breezed through quickly, with even the final big encounter and boss level taking probably all of 10 minutes total, including repeated deaths.

$15 is a lot for a 90-minute game. For $5 more you can get Inside, a game that’s both longer and on a whole different level of quality. You can also get Cuphead, which I have not played but which has much better animation and it looks like more content too. Hollow Knight is only $12, Ori and the Blind Forest is $20, as is Guacamelee 2. Owlboy is $15. I would recommend the aforementioned Super Time Force, featuring much longer levels and a large cast of interesting characters, well before Rise & Shine. The fact is that we are absolutely spoiled for choice when it comes to cheap amazing platformers in the 8th generation, and Rise & Shine, though doing something different and worth a try, just isn’t worth as much as something like Rogue Legacy that will last you a dozen hours of better gameplay. And that’s just focusing on platformers and ignoring other types of indie games like Bastion or Crypt of the Necrodancer. The bar has been set very high for indie games, and something like Rise & Shine just doesn’t offer enough unless you’ve played everything else, or you’re really into games that reference the fact that they’re games. It’s not bad, it’s just overmatched.

The run and gun platforming parts are pretty good but incredibly brief. Robot drones can swarm the screen and also fill it with bullets, making things pretty hectic.
The run and gun platforming parts are pretty good but incredibly brief. Robot drones can swarm the screen and also fill it with bullets, making things pretty hectic.

All that being said, I don’t regret my time with Rise & Shine. It was fun while it lasted and the unique art style and mashing together of genres made it interesting and memorable. The nice thing about it being short is that if you can get it for cheap it’s a very low commitment. It’s something you can breeze through in one quick session and still have fun. It would be a perfect Gamepass game, or something you might find in a Humble Bundle (I think it’s been a few.) I do think it’s worth a playthrough, just not at the asking price.

Start the Conversation