Rise & Shine is a game with some bold ambition and a interesting point of view. Though drawn in a cartoon-like style, Rise & Shine is bloody, difficult, and specifically designed to shock. This latter aspect isn't too surprising. Rise & Shine is developed by Super Awesome Hyper Dimensional Mega Team but its published by Adult Swim. So it has the exact same comedic sensibilities as the late night cartoon network.
Rise & Shine is an example where looks are meant to be deceiving. Although the game appears cute, its tone is rather vulgar. It's a game that's meant to be viewed as a parody. There's mocking references from everything from The Legend of Zelda to Halo. However this dismissive sense of humor ends up working against Rise & Shine because while cleverly written its gameplay is anything but inventive. As much as Rise & Shine wants to be a biting commentary on modern gaming, it's much less fun to play than the games it routinely mocks.
The core conceit of Rise & Shine is simple. The main character, a young boy named Rise, is thrust into an intergalactic war against his will. Alien invaders attack Rise's homeworld of Gamearth (it's not a subtle name) and Rise is the only line of defense. When Rise receives a legendary gun named Shine from a hero who looks like (but is legally dissimilar to) Link from The Legend of Zelda, he must trek along the world to kill, jump and puzzle solve.
There are a few unique ideas in Rise & Shine. One of the most helpful early weapons is a special bullet that can be controlled AFTER it's been shot from the barrel. This magic bullet becomes really useful for hitting far off and hidden switches and solving puzzles. It's not wholly original but it's well implemented. The art style is similarly appealing. As much as Gamearth is just a collection of video game references and jokes, Rise & Shine does have a special art style and visual sensibility all its own. It truly looks like a cartoon come to life.
Sadly that's where the positives of Rise & Shine end. To put things as simple as possible, Rise & Shine has great ideas but terrible execution. Rise & Shine tries to blend the old-school bullet hell, shoot-em-up style with slow puzzle mechanics and it just doesn't work. The speed of the game differs wildly in the most confusing ways. Sometimes Rise needs duck behind cover and other instances he needs to charge ahead but its never apparent which is the right decision.
Even worse, the game is incredibly difficult to control. Everything and everyone is annoying float-y, whether its Rise himself as he jumps or the aiming of Shine as a gun. A very early addition of a laser sight to Shine helps but aiming is still so finicky in Rise & Shine. It's a good thing that Shine provides Rise "infinite respawns" because the pint-sized protagonist will die over and over for fatal mistakes that aren't necessarily his (or the player's) fault.
It's this artificial difficulty that manages to pad out Rise & Shine's criminally short run time. From start to finish, Rise & Shine takes about two hours to complete. There's nothing inherently wrong with a short game but two hours of this gameplay feels more like a free-to-play online flash game than a full-fledged video game. This is especially true as Rise & Shine doesn't attempt to say or doing anything that feels new in that time frame. For a parody Rise & Shine is so paint-by-numbers. Most of the game boils down to running, gunning and dying due to unfair design.
The issues with Rise & Shine probably would've been less noticeable if the tone of the game was different. Rise & Shine isn't unplayable. It's frustrating at times but there are moments of actual joy and amusement to be found, especially when reading some of the dialogue. However since Rise & Shine puts so much of a spotlight on the tropes and silliness of gaming it just highlights how bland it is as a standalone product.
To be a successful parody a game needs to just as good if not better than the games it is mocking. The controls need to be precise, the genre laser-focused and there should be at least one wholly original gameplay element. Rise & Shine doesn't check of any of those boxes. Rise & Shine is a disappointment of a game that could've (and should've) been so much better.
Rise & Shine is available now on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC for $14.99. Screen Rant was provided a Nintendo Switch copy for review.