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Rise & Shine Review: Bullet, Hell

/ Feb 15th, 2017 No Comments

Rise & Shine review

When Adult Swim got into video games, it wasn’t clear what type of games it would focus on publishing. Would the games be more straightforward or would they mirror the type of hyper-stylized and tonal programming the brand is known for?

After a few years of publishing, it is obvious that Adult Swim Games puts out games that are as creatively bold and polarizing as its late night programming. Rise & Shine is the latest example of this. The game feels like it’d fit right at home in the late night Adult Swim block both in art style and story. The presentation is on point, but the game falters in its gameplay.

Tongue in Cheek

A terrible fate is befalling Gamearth; the space grunts are invading. The ruthless grunts are massacring people with alarming efficiency. Rise was a hapless bystander at candy mall when space grunts came in and started executing innocent civilians. He would be dead if not for the intervention of the Legendary Warrior and the powerful weapon, Shine.

Sadly, the altercation didn’t go well for the Legendary Warrior. In his final moments, he charged Rise with the possession of Shine and the duty to fight against the invasion.

Rise & Shine review

It is easy to forget that Rise is just a kid thrown into a crazy situation.

Rise must learn to wield Shine if he has any hopes of surviving the terrifying might of the space grunts.

With great fire power comes a lot of deaths, so it is lucky that Shine grants the power of infinite respawns. The journey will be tough and full of bullets.

Rise & Shine review

The story’s humor has a sharp eye for ridiculous video game conventions.

Where Rise & Shine is most successful is in its visuals and story, which are loaded with references to video games old and new. The narrative mimics many other games where an unexpected hero is thrown into extraordinary circumstances and needs to save the day.

What elevates it is the knowing nods and winks given to the player, a.k.a. the guide, with all the different allusions and fourth wall breaking. Rise & Shine is a tongue-in-cheek love letter to video games, but its gameplay doesn’t quite mirror the same love.

Novel Frustration

One thing Rise & Shine has is moxie. It is a bold move to combine three different genres into one game. The result of the mash-up is an intriguing side-scrolling cover shooter with a healthy dose of bullet hell.

To say the game has a learning curve is being kind. There are a ton of mechanics to get down in Rise & Shine. The complexity of the mechanics can be counterintuitive to the sheer amount of information you have to take in at any given moment. It turns reflexive actions into contemplative as you make sure you’re using the right ammunition in certain situations.

The shame of this is that it turns a healthy, satisfying difficulty into an exercise of controller-smashing frustration.

Rise & Shine review

One of the more nebulous aspects of the gameplay is the durability of cover.

Rise & Shine is broken up into segments with various hard checkpoints throughout. This structure results in specific annoying chokepoints. As a result, there are moments where you get stuck due to a minor mistake because the hero is very fragile and enemy attacks are very strong. The gameplay is pattern based, so the enemy placement is the same each time.

What becomes frustrating is memorizing the pattern only to die because of a small mistake, like using the wrong bullet or missing an errant explosive. Having to restart at the beginning of the sequence is fine at first, but after a few times of messing up, it becomes maddening.

Rise & Shine review

The boss fights are where the difficulty is actually rewarding.

Truthfully, it is hard to fault Rise & Shine for having a steep difficulty because it feels in line with its nostalgic, old school aesthetic. At times, it feels as frustrating as the games you played on your NES or Genesis. However, it is stuck somewhere between satisfying toughness and frustrating design.


Rise & Shine is a novel game with an interesting take on the side-scrolling cover shooter bullet hell genre. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite come together seamlessly. By combining the genres, it inherits many of their weaknesses as well.

Ultimately, Rise & Shine is a woefully frustrating, if not visually beautiful, experience.

Rise & Shine was reviewed on Xbox One using a code for the game provided by the publisher.


Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
Kalvin Martinez

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Gaming Illustrated RATING



Rise & Shine's gameplay is a novel mash-up of genres, but suffers from large difficulty spikes and unforgiving checkpoints.


Visually, Rise & Shine is bold with a bright color palette, and fantastic animations.


The music is fantastic and its hard to get out of your head.


The constant references to beloved video game characters turn this well-trodden story into a fun love letter to the medium.

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