I'll be honest, reviewing Rise & Shine is a bit of a conundrum. On one hand, it's a gorgeous game with a unique story that can be tons of fun to play. But it also has hit-or-miss controls and a difficulty level that spikes from fun to frustrating and back again far too often.
Rise & Shine is set on Gamearth, the planet where all classic video games live. It has a very much Wreck-It Ralph vibe, where every screen is full of in-jokes and hidden game references. Unfortunately, your planet is under attack from the evil Space Grunts from planet Nexgen (which I have to assume is where all the characters from Gears of War are from.)
Your character Rise is at the mall when the Space Grunts attack and kill everyone including the hero of Gamearth, Legendary Warrior (who looks suspiciously like Link.) With his dying breath, he gives Rise an anthropomorphic gun named Shine who gives him the power of infinite respawns and who will help him in his quest to defeat the evil Space Grunts.
I exited the mall into the gorgeously lush landscapes that are Rise & Shine's strongest asset. The game is visually stunning, with what appear to be hand-drawn backgrounds that are dense with color and video game references. It's the type of game that you will want to screen shot constantly because it's just that pretty. Then I stepped ten feet into the game world and was blown up brutally by a hidden mine. My body exploded in a splash of blood and I was dead for the first of what would often seem like an almost infinite number of times.
My character was brought back to life in a flurry of pixels and I tried again. I approached the mines, which I now noticed were popping up out of the ground slightly higher than my head, so tried to shoot them. Unfortunately, my controller just couldn't quite seem to get my gun to point at the right angle to shoot the flying mine, almost like I only had 16 angles that my gun could shoot at, instead of the unlimited angles that an analog stick should give me.
I finally got past the mines, picking up power-ups to my guns along the way. One let me remote control my bullets. Another made them electric to better kill robots. Yet another made them explosive. Normally these options would make a game world open up, but in Rise & Shine it just added an extra layer of frustration. Remote control bullets were nearly impossible to control accurately. Switching from regular to electric to explosive bullets in battle was extremely hard.
Finally, I happened across a post on Steam that mentioned that the game was far easier to play with a keyboard and mouse. This seemed extremely unintuitive based on the amount of running and jumping involved in the game, but it definitely helped. Finally, I could shoot at whatever angle I wanted. Guiding bullets became infinitely easier. What it didn't help with was the boss fights.
The majority of Rise & Shine was relatively easy. Each scene in the game is divided into sections and beating each section was rarely very difficult. You may have to replay it a few times to figure out the way through, but they were all very do-able. Unfortunately, you did have to get all the way through the scene for the game to save, but it never seemed impossible. Then I hit the first boss in the fourth scene. I died, over and over again. Each battle only lasted two or three minutes and I probably spent a half hour trying to beat him. He had multiple different attacks that he used randomly. All of them could kill me with a hit or two and they just got more frequent and numerous as I did damage to him.
The battle also required me to switch between weapon modes frequently, which was made extremely difficult because of the number and frequency of attacks. Trying to move using WASD, changing bullet types with E and bullet modifiers with Q, reloading with R, dashing with Ctrl and holding one mouse button to aim and another to fire all withing seconds was impossible at times. It would have been significantly easier with a controller, but then it would have been impossible to aim. It was a terrible Catch 22.
Of course, I eventually got past him, but with the same pattern repeating itself. I'd love playing through gorgeously rendered levels with fun enemies and silly video game jokes, only to run into another impossibly difficult boss fight.
This culminated with the final level, which consisted of an initial scene that took me 45 minutes and more three dozen deaths to beat. This was immediately followed by the final boss fight that was just as difficult. I'm sure part of this frustration was just a skill issue on my part, but so much of it seemed to be a hugely spiked difficulty level mixed with imperfect controls that it to some degree soured me on the game as a whole.
Rise & Shine is a complicated game to review. The story - although a bit disjointed - is fun. I greatly enjoyed the setting, I loved the hidden game references and the game has an absolutely incredible soundtrack to go along with its stunningly gorgeous visuals. The non-boss levels also usually presented the perfect amount of challenge and fun. The boss levels, on the other hand, were just too hard. They required a level of precision that just wasn't possible with either available control scheme and seemed out of place in the flow of the overall game.
Our Recommendation: Buy it On Sale
If you are a fan of games with extreme difficulty and enjoy the repetitive practice required to raise your skill level to equal that difficulty, Rise & Shine is the perfect game for you. Other more casual gamers may find this game too hard and therefore frustrating, but should enjoy the look, story and sound. If you can grab it for $5 - $10, it's totally worth it.