Rise & Shine Review
Stay In Bed
Most gaming-related humor makes me cringe. On Facebook, the majority of pages that are some combination of gaming and memes are a pretty good litmus test of what an alarming number of gamers find funny. A good portion of this humor isn’t even really funny or jokes at all – it’s just pointing out a thing about a video game, slapping some text on it, and calling it a day. The kind of ‘comedy’ that the later seasons of Family Guy popularized. After all, why think of a funny joke when you can just reference something?
Imagine, then, a whole game built around this type of humor. In a nutshell, you’ve got Rise & Shine, a game so in love with its own perceived cleverness that it starts grating on the nerves after thirty minutes. By the time you’ve played several hours, it’s unclear whether or not you even have nerves anymore.
The basic conceit of the game is that you play as Rise, a little hooded boy in the world of (sigh) Gamearth. Gamearth is being attacked by evil robots from space, and by attacked, I mean gory mass genocide is occurring. Only you and your talking gun, Shine, can save the day, along with help your dad, who definitely, totally isn’t just Marcus Fenix from Gears of War. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
From the game’s opening, you know what you’re getting into. You watch Link bleeding to death, murdered by evil robots, in the middle of a shopping mall. This shopping mall includes a Chozo’s Armory and a Celda’s something-or-the-other. Then you watch more video game tropes die. And then it happens again for a few more hours until the game is finally over.
You might think this is an exaggeration, but I’m being completely serious. The game’s sense of humor doesn’t change throughout its short duration. Someone clearly thought that showing Princess Peach’s gored corpse, bodies hanging from the rafters of a Mushroom Kingdom castle, a city called RPG City, and all of Rise & Shine’s other ‘gems’ were hysterical. I have no doubt about that, and it makes me sad. It makes me sad because this ‘humor’ is the bottom of the mid-2000’s Newgrounds barrel, at best. There is no satire here, no actual comedy – just unfeeling, sociopathic illusions of jokes, along with a self-aggrandizing bit of fourth-wall breaking with characters referring to “the creators.”
Not even the gameplay can salvage the experience, either. It’s an awkward, uncomfortable blend of cover-based shooting and run-and-gun bullet hell, two things that don’t mix very well – at least not here. The awkward, imprecise control scheme, combined with the guarantee that you’ll never be able to keep track of everything on screen at once, leads to several cheap, infuriating deaths. It doesn’t help that the hit detection is ridiculously dodgy, to the point where Rise is able to fucking eat it from an enemy that isn’t even touching him. Add in ‘fun’ little twists like enemies that spawn on top of you and kill you in one hit, and you’ve got a game that isn’t really hard, but cheap and frustrating.
While there are some neat puzzle bits that involve guided bullets and swapping out ammo types, they’re few and far between and don’t drown out how monotonous and aggravating the rest of the game is.
“an awkward, uncomfortable blend of cover-based shooting and run-and-gun bullet hell”
The art direction is, at least, marginally interesting when it’s not being interminably edgy. Rise and Shine’s designs are cute and fun, and the graphics are colorful and vibrant. Yet a good portion of the game is spent trying to either reference preexisting properties or shock us. Rise, a little boy, can get blown to bloody chunks, which just feels like an absurd plea for attention. Beloved video game characters get murdered or become zombies in the opening levels. Oh, my, how shocking! How bold! How funny?
Rise & Shine’s visuals are at their very best when that initial hour or two slog is through, and the art team is able to flex their muscles by blending pixel art and Flash sprites. But by that time, the damage from a detestable opening act and aggravating gameplay are already done. If I didn’t have to, I probably would’ve given up long before then.
Rise & Shine is a comedy game that doesn’t seem to understand comedy. It’s satire without a subject, a challenge without a reward, a game without fun. In other words, it’s a failure on all the fronts it was attempting to tackle aside from the graphics, and something that inspires nothing but frustrations, shrugs, and rolls of the eye.