Rise and Shine is a retro mashup of genres; part puzzle, part shooter, part platformer. The game does a great service in paying homage to retro games of generations past. It's easy to get lost in the nostalgic game mechanics and art style, but things get bogged down in a shallow story and a short overall experience.
The adventure starts off with a young boy, Rise, lost in the mall during Planet NexGen's invasion of the retro Gamearth. While trying to escape the mall, he witnesses the death of Gamearth's legendary hero, an elfen warrior clad in a blue tunic. Before dying, he gives Rise the legendary weapon, Shine, who can grant its weilder infinite respawns. Rise's mission is clear, use the legendary gun to stop the invasion and save Gamearth. The story of Rise and Shine is filled with obvious references to retro games that never fail to bring a smile to your face. Unfortunately, once the novelty wears off, it's a case of overused fanfare, which some gamers might end up enjoying. Personally, I found most cutscenes unappealing when I knew the exact direction the story was going. Overall it's an enjoyable story, but one we've seen far too many times.
The gameplay in Rise and Shine obviously aims to let players revisit the gaming experience of the 80's and 90's. Using a magazine that holds between 10-15 bullets, you must face off against a series of minions from NexGen, who each have their own patterns and weaknesses. Your gun, Shine, carries all the aspects of gameplay from shooting enemies to hitting far away switches, and even powering up generators. The game gives you a series of gun mods and bullet types, all of which you receive in the first hour of the game.
Fighting enemies soaks up most of the gameplay. Flying robots saturate the screen in bullets, which are a detriment to Rise's squishy little body. Ultrabuff human soldiers generally hide behind a shield and throw grenades, backed up by incendiaries parachuting onto the battlefield. Shine's gun mods, such as arcing grenades and EMP bullets are useful for taking out different enemy types. The gameplay is simple, yet satisfying, and each enemy wave leaves you with a feeling of catharsis when they're finally defeated.
The other aspect of saving Gamearth is in the many puzzles that stand between Rise and the alien commander. Some puzzles require you to arc your grenades in interesting ways while others need the Remote Controlled (RC) bullet to weave it's way to a far off switch. The puzzles in Rise and Shine are sometimes confusing and left me feeling pretty dumb, but when I finally figured them out I couldn't help but give myself a pat on the back.
Graphically, Rise and Shine continues its trend of calling back to the retro games of the 80's and 90's, but with an updated feel. Character models are sharp and defined, and bullets from enemies give off enough light to eliminate any hitbox issues while trying to dodge enemy fire. The word to describe the looks of this game would be simple, but it's a sophisticated simplicity, one that doesn't use a bunch of fancy graphical tricks and prefers to stay true to the era it takes inspiration from.
The soundtrack can be hit-or-miss sometimes. In moments where you're stuck in a dark area avoiding one of NexGen's most prevalent enemies, zombies, the music does a perfect job in setting an eerie tone that can seriously stress you out when you hear them coming. Other times, the music takes on a somber tone at a time where it doesn't seem appropriate, such as when you're just riding an elevator and the game plays one of its base sad piano melodies. In games like this, sad music doesn't exactly make me wanna kick some alien butt.
For as much of a good time Rise and Shine is, it can be short lived. The story takes a little under three hours to complete, and the only thing to do after beating it is trying your hand at ironman mode, playing through without dying at all. With a price tag of $14.99 on Xbox Live, you don't get the most bang for your buck here.
Overall, Rise and Shine makes for a good gaming experience that will bring feelings of nostalgia rushing in to many gamers. The experience just doesn't last long enough though, so this won't be a game you can bleed 60 hours out of, or more than 10 for that matter. If you're in a mood where you might be missing the good old days in the basement with your NES hooked up to a tiny tv, you'll get a real kick out of this game. If you're someone who wants a deep story and complex mechanics, your money might be better spent elsewhere. As in all things, it's important to know what you're purchasing. Rise and Shine is a great adventure while it lasts, and you won't regret that you went on it.