The moment you see that the world a game is based on is called Gamerearth, you can already tell where the theme is heading. Combine that with the knowledge that the game comes from Adult Swim and you can be forgiven for expecting a rather tongue in cheek funny adult themed game and this is where Rise and Shine almost loses its way in trying to define exactly what it is supposed to be as an experience for players.
Rise and Shine puts the player in the role of Rise, a young boy living on Gamerearth, a place inhabited by heroes who have more than just a passing resemblance to certain classic video game characters. The world is suddenly invaded by a evil army of space marines and whilst running to protection inside a local shopping mall, Rise comes across a Legendary Warrior, who falls in battle and gives Rise his gun in order to fight back and save the world. The gun is a legendary pistol called Shine, who can speak and offers to help Rise in his fight.
The game itself on the surface is a standard 2D side scrolling shooter but soon starts to throw in gameplay styles from other well known game series. Soon the game injects a cover based system those familiar with Gears of War will recognize, an addition which in the early stages does work well. Rise and Shine also uses a twin stick shooter system to make it stand out from conventional side scroller shooters. So what we have is a game that has been influenced and inspired by the gameplay styles of other titles, trying to blend them together in a way that is refreshing but sadly, only succeeds in making the gameplay messy.
The gameplay starts off fairly routine but quickly escalates to almost silly levels that frustrate and constrain the gameplay. Shine soon unlocks the ability to use different forms of ammo from remote controlled bullets to elemental bullets. The levels introduce puzzles in order to progress further which will require using the special ammo to unlock doors or turn off security systems. I actually liked this element; it gave the levels an extra challenge outside of the action and complimented the level design well. But the gameplay does start to trip up on itself sadly and this is the main fault of Rise and Shine.
At points of the game, the difficulty will spike at points, turning Rise and Shine into more of a bullet hell style game which the player will have to try and avoid a shower of bullets from the enemy. When this happens, the control system becomes increasingly unhelpful and cheap deaths will halt progression. The cover based system falters under the relentless amount of bullets or enemies on screen and soon the player can be overwhelmed by the action. It felt as though the game was attempting to make up for its very short length, between two and two and half hours to complete, by making sections overly difficult to force repeating sections or boss encounters. Now other games use this style very effectively, but here it simply feels unfair leaving a trial and error system to rinse and repeat certain sections. It regretfully sullies the experience and sours the cocktail of gaming styles Rise and Shine tries to bring together which can work in parts but ultimately breaks itself far too much.
Visually the hand drawn art style is striking and gives it a real comic book visual style I really liked. The soundtrack and audio to the game is equally fun but just as the gameplay lets itself down, the hard work in the visuals and audio then falls down in terms of the story. It is a relatively simply story in Rise and Shine, hero must rise to save his world from an enemy but it relies on parody far too much which at first is kind of cute but soon becomes tiresome. The Legendary Warrior who gives Rise the pistol Shine, bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain Nintendo hero, and the parodying continues into other well known game series, these are not subtle and end up feeling forced into the story though but considering the setting of the world is expected.
Overall Rise and Shine is a game trying to do a lot of things but ultimately over complicates the fundamentals. By being a jack of all trades it relies far too much on simply making it difficult to the player but in a way that is not rewarding or satisfying enough for the player to feel like they were challenged more than simply surviving cheap AI tactics. The visual style is wasted by such a short game and the humour quickly evaporates which considering the two hour length is a disappointment. Fans of side scroller shooters will get more out of this than a casual player but when the controls and mechanics start to unravel you simply end up thinking it is a shame they did not focus more on just making the game a bit longer and rewarding.