Rise & Shine
PC, Xbox One
Yes, OK, we get it: videogames. Barely a minute goes by in Rise & Shine without some kind of nod, wink, or top-of-the-lungs scream in reference to its host medium. You play a child, Rise, who is battling to save Gamearth from the invading Grunts, with the help of Shine, a talking, puzzle-solving pistol. Throughout there are references to the unseen ‘guide’ – that’s you – helping the duo along. Rise is aware that he respawns when he fails. The final level of the game is called RPG City. At one point the dog from Duck Hunt pops up to detonate a bridge you’re walking over. On and on it goes: some gags hit and some fall flat, but all show how an attempt to be slyly self-referential can often come across as a lack of imagination. Of course you guys love videogames. You make them for a living.
Still, there’s plenty here to like in a game that successfully blends twitchy, almost bullet-hell arcade action and tricksy puzzle solving, often at the same time. The former is made a little easier with a double jump, speedy dash and the ability to duck behind indestructible cover, but complicated by the way this 2D game borrows from 3D shooters: you pull the left trigger to aim, then use the right stick to line up your shots. You’ll need to reload, too – Shine’s clip holds just ten bullets at the outset, though this can be upgraded as you progress – so there’s a real emphasis on picking your shots, which is an exacting task when it’s all you can do to stay alive in a hail of bullets. Some enemy ordnance can be shot out of the sky, but death comes easy and often. Thankfully, those thoroughly meta respawns rarely set you back too far.
Puzzles, meanwhile, involve using Shine’s expanding toolset in increasingly tricksy ways. An alternate fire mode lets you slow a bullet down and control its flight path with the analogue stick; it can only be used in specific places, where you’ll need to weave around to avoid obstacles, and often line up a perfect shot at the end, a final press of RT sending the bullet at full speed to its target. Later you’ll gain explosive rounds and a grenade, which need to be used with precision.
This is not a long game, but it can often feel like one: certain combat sections can only be completed with what feels like a perfect run, and you’ll often credit the game with too much intelligence in its puzzle design. The constant torrent of videogame references is perhaps a matter of taste, though there’s too much of it towards the end, when it feels as if the developers are padding things out with a shoutout to every game they loved as kids. It’s hard to find too much fault in a game that’s so in love with its inspirations, but Rise & Shine is at its best when it’s being itself.
In a turn against convention, boss encounters are among the easier challenges in Rise & Shine, since big targets make for easy aiming. As is so often the case, it’s the little guys you need to watch out for