Growing up retro, there’s almost nothing that I love more when a project pays total homage to the goldschool relics and just gaming in general. Rise & Shine is a side-scrolling shooter that ticks all the boxes of smooth & satisfying action all while throwing in numerous easter eggs to various other games — some of which can be missed without paying close attention. However, paying close attention might be what you’ll do as Rise & Shine’s hand-drawn visuals are layered with fine detail and vibrant colors. The creators -say it with me here- Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team have created a shooter that incorporates numerous gameplay mechanics which always keep things fresh. The only gripe is that the overall experience is rather short, but oh is it super sweet.
Rise & Shine’s comic book approach to storytelling fits well with the playable portions of the game. Aside from certain effects, both cut-scenes and gameplay are all hand-drawn with visual charm. These slides allow you to view at your own pace allowing you to move onto the next shot when you’re ready; as they should. Taking in the drawn assets one-by-one deserves some time for sure. One reason is that there’s a lot one can miss in each frame such as nods to the culture of gaming. All of this is done through the playable character named Rise, who one day finds himself in the middle of an ongoing war between his homeland, Gamearth, and the Space Grunt invaders who hail from the planet Nexgen. Its silly setup gives the game the freedom to run with any fun idea not only in its simple and somewhat little narrative, but game mechanics as well. This is thanks to Rise’s new friend and weapon, Shine, who happens to be a “gun of legend” bestowed upon him to be the hero of this tale.
Each new mechanic introduced promptly allows players to understand it by completing the task at hand. The overall aiming & shooting in Rise & Shine feels incredibly smooth and polished. Much of this also thanks to the game running at 60 frames per second. Players control Rise by using the left analog stick. Pressing and holding ZL will unholster Shine from his backpack and allow him to aim with Shine by using the right analog stick in any direction. Being stuff of legends, Shine holds certain powers aside from his smart mouth (barrel?). Shine provides Rise with the ability to have infinite bullets and life respawns. Pressing A will allow Rise to get behind cover for safety and shoot from behind it. Pressing B will allow Rise to jump once and pressing it a second time in mid-air will have Shine shoot a bullet towards the ground providing a thrust that behaves like a 2nd jump. Shine’s clip holds a certain amount of bullets before a reload is necessary by pressing Y, which can also be done at any time. Throughout the course of the game, pickups will you to expand the size of your clip by one. That’s not all. Pickups also expand the usage of secondary functions.
Rise & Shine is more than just running & gunning. Some portions involve a certain puzzle element to them and the game always does something new with the new mechanics learned. What lends Rise & Shine to do more than just blast your way through a level are the two types of modifiers to Shine. Pickups are permanent and key ones are how and what you’re shooting. Pressing L will cycle through and modify how the bullet you shot behaves. Pressing R also modifies the type of bullet that is being shot. For instance, players are able to switch between a standard bullet and a energy bullet. Standard bullets may be suitable against armored and humanoid enemies while an energy bullet is best against robots and electrical switches.
Knowing what bullet element to use is one thing; how to use it is another. For example, one of the bullet modifiers allows Rise to control any shot bullet like a homing missile. If you’ve ever played Super Mario Odyssey and captured a Bullet Bill, think of it like that instead in 2D. Players are able to control the speed and angle at which the bullet moves. The one catch is they can only be controlled in any area that has specific censors that create a wireless field indicated by bubbles which dictate its boundaries of movement. It’s also more than just shooting straight ahead. Some bullets need to be navigated to tiny corridors and/or avoid enemy attacks all to hit a specific target. One bullet modifier acts as a grenade launcher with an arching aim reticule that straightens out the longer you hold down the aim button, allowing players to know the trajectory of its curve. Hold it down until it’s a straight line and then the grenade sticks to a surface. This idea also incorporates itself into certain scenarios as well.
If you’re a fan of nods to other games then you’ll enjoy what you’ll see here. For the completionists, each level contains a certain number of hidden targets to be found and destroyed. They may mask themselves as part of the environment or pop out at the right time. Some of them also aren’t worth spoiling, but they’re good at being cheeky so seeking them out has its moments. The art is quite easy on the eyes and are also animated smoothly. Layered assets between the foreground and background mostly aren’t static. The parallax applied to them as you move also looks quite nice. Rise & Shine also remains a shooter in certain parts of the game and also twist in some other genre at times. Everything feels great to control. Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team just put a good focus on including a number of fun things to the game. It’s probably also for that reason that it’s quite short as well after having finished the game in about 2 hours. It’s worth noting the composer for the game, Damian Sanchez. He provides an atmospheric soundtrack despite being a fun and comical story (although it has a plot twist). It’s as strong as the artwork itself so it makes sense.