It's time to wake up a smell the coffee as 2017 is off to a visually stunning start.
The extravagantly named studio Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team clearly put all its chips towards audiovisual presentation with Rise & Shine, a platformer with a lot to take in, however, this left precious little for anything else.
The knockoff video game world Gamearth is in peril. The clearly Nintendo-inspired Marios and Links defend it fiercely against a group of Gears of War-like space marines and their robotic henchmen, and the player takes the form of a little boy named Rise, who happens to come across a powerful hand cannon called Shine. It's a talkative piece of deadly hardware and a lot better versed in what is going on around the unlikely duo.
The story and its numerous video game references aren't particularly unique and the jokes and puns may not bring more than a light chuckle, but least they offer a thin layer of motivation for you to push on. The writing doesn't reach the required heights for it to be truly captivating though, and there is no in-depth trope analysis you'd find in a proper parody. Gamearth itself is a mixture of the colourful and whimsical, with a touch of ultra-violence and gloom. A great fit for publisher Adult Swim, as it turns out.
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The cover-based shooting mechanics are a bit cumbersome to employ in practice too. Many enemies can kill Rise with just one hit, and others tend to rob you of a third of the health bar. The pace is high and continues to climb towards the finale, so the duo are forced to shoot, dodge, and switch ammo types on the fly with immaculate precision. With smooth controls this wouldn't be a negative, but Rise & Shine seems to trip over itself one too many times. This comes into particular focuses in scenes where you have to switch both the ammo (normal, electric, explosive) and projectile (normal, grenade, guided) type. One can only imagine that the level of difficulty was ramped up partly to compensate for the short running time.
It's not all cover shooting, though. A couple of calmer, story-heavy scenes are there along with puzzle sections and mini-games, so the content is there and doesn't wear itself thin. There's just not enough of it. We'd be fine with the length if it wasn't for a fairly hefty price tag (£11/€15), but we've grown accustomed to getting more at that price point. Once you get to grips with the controls, the simple mechanics don't offer much in terms of replayability.
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If Rise & Shine excels at something, it's visuals and music. It'd be easy to grab dozens of wallpaper-ready pictures from the varied scenes, and the enemies are easy to identify from the look alone, with each and every one being very well-animated. Shooting has a powerful feel to it too, thanks to impactful sound assets, and the soundtrack emulates game music in its own way. One criticism here would be that the aim cursor easily gets lost in the explosions and flurry of incoming projectiles.
We'd love to score Rise & Shine higher. It's oozing with personality, has an excellent soundtrack and top-of-the-line platformer graphics. There's charm in spades and clear indication of affectionate group of people behind it. Therefore it's a shame this three-hour foray into Gamearth didn't win us over, mostly due to its lacklustre storytelling and muddled control scheme. The game's perfect for striking trailers and screenshots that will sell you the game well, but as it currently stands, the conscious buyer might want to wait for a sale.