It’s hard to really pinpoint what kind of game Rise and Shine really is. The promotional images and trailer, at least for me, painted it as something totally different. At first glance, it looked like something that was right up my alley. It very much looked like a bullet hell action platformer with some light humor. The game piqued my interest and allowed me to check off several boxes on my mental checklist of things I look for when selecting a game.
Rise and Shine takes place on Gamearth. The world is made up of characters who are one-offs of iconic characters in video games. The “Legendary Warrior” is none other than a Link lookalike. The main villain of the game is almost a carbon copy of Marcus Fenix from the Gears of War franchise. The rest of the cast seems self-aware that they are in a game world, with the dialogue acting as a constant reminder that this is indeed the case. Essentially, it’s a video game about video games, and the characters know they are in a video game. Whoa.
Although the gameception concept is mostly humorous, I found that it really muddied the story and the overall experience. You play as the main character, Rise, who wields the legendary weapon, Shine, and whoever holds it is chosen to save the world. This could have been an interesting take in and of itself. Instead, there’s a lot of time spent referencing developers and making callbacks to the game world that they exist in. There are also additional callbacks to items and designs from games like Super Mario Bros., complete with zombie Goomba-looking enemies.
One of the first things that caught my attention about Rise and Shine was its visuals. I’m a sucker for hand-drawn art and punchy action. Games like Shantae: Half-Genie Hero and the Shank series hold a special place in my heart. Rise and Shine has some incredibly detailed environments and art. Levels and character models are detailed, vivid, and colorful. I often found myself admiring the world, with the layering of the foreground, middle ground, and background design providing a sense of depth to each scene.
The combat of the game seemed like something I could really sink my teeth into. Shine has a noticeable pop, and the screen shakes with each bullet that’s expelled. However, most of your time spent in Rise and Shine isn’t necessarily running and gunning. Levels progress for short burst, some even having small puzzles to complete. Areas where you are actually let off of the leash and free to shoot aren’t necessarily ramped up with action. Instead, you are often left to fire from designated rocks for cover. I kept thinking to myself, “This isn’t like what the trailer made it out to be. Maybe there’s more to explore.”
As you continue on your journey, you’ll discover new attachments for Shine. There are two bullet types: standard and shock. Standard bullets are made to destroy and cause damage. The electrical ammo can disable robots and destroy enemies that have shields surrounding them. You can flip through these options using the R button. Outside of the ammo types, there are also three different firing modes. You have a standard shot that shoots as fast as you can push the ZR button. Another is the grenade launcher, and lastly, a bullet time remote bullet. Puzzles are often completed using the remote bullet feature.
The biggest problem I had with Rise and Shine was its effort to be everything. A run-and-gun action platformer, with bullet hell elements, where you have puzzles, tough boss battles, and small doses of comedic flavor. All the while you’re trying to avoid one-hit kills, frustrating mechanics, and swapping in-between weapon augments, something that never really feels comfortable or fluid. I would have preferred being able to toggle through each of the weapon options using the D-pad instead of frantically tapping the L button to get to the right attachment I need. Most times I succumbed to a cheap death because of this.
The game should have taken a little more time to expand certain mechanics, elements, and themes. Because of this oversight, the game feels very condensed, often concluding a level or section before you even really see some action. This happens often over the course of the roughly two-hour campaign.
Rise and Shine is undoubtedly one of the best-looking games on the Switch. The animations, level design, and characters are nothing short of a feast for the eyes. While this is all well and good, the rest of the game never really finds its footing because of its brevity and lack of focus. If you’re planning on jumping into this adventure, be prepared for a game with elements of an action platformer, with bullet hell moments, that is constantly stifled by the need to be everything all at once.