Rise & Shine, developed by Super Mega Team and published by Adult Swim Games acts as a tough-as-nails love letter to the sort of quirky-yet-difficult gaming era that many early gamers experienced during the times of the NES and SNES systems.

Released back on the 13th of January this year, Rise & Shine follows the unwilling protagonist, Rise, as world, Gamearth is invaded by the legions of Nexgen, ruthless soldiers that want nothing more than to remove themselves from the shackles of their past and move forward at an exponential rate…Through any means necessary.

The one hope to stop the forces of Nexgen lie with the Legendary Hero, the wielder of the magical and quip-spouting gun Shine, who can use the pistol in a large variety of interesting ways, from firing elemental bullets, to directly controlling the bullets in midair to dodge blockades and solve puzzles…However, for reasons I won’t go into, the mystical weapon Shine falls into the hands of our protagonist, Rise…

Armed with Shine, it’s up to Rise to make his way to the kingdom’s palace, find Gamearth’s king, and locate the ‘Ultimate Weapon’ that can push back the Nexgen forces for good.

Now let me state one thing right off the bat – The visuals of this game look absolutely breathtaking for a small-studio development studio, with environments, quotes and locations based off of popular gaming culture – In the image above you can clearly see things like a Mario “?” Block, “Celda’s Place”, “Lara’s Croft”, “Freemans”, and much more, including shops like “Belmonts” and more. Statues of the most popular gaming figures litter the environment, from Kid Icarus to Mario, there’s certainly a lot to take in for anyone who loves gaming.

The soundtrack is another big-hitter for me, with some themes like the Main Theme and Level 1 themes being reminiscent of something you’d hear in a fusion of Jak and Daxter and Ratchet and Clank; the sound effects too really do hit the nail on the head with Rise & Shine, with each shot packing a powerful, exaggerated blast, every shot into flesh signalling individual tears and just so much more – Seriously. Do yourself a favour and play this game with surround sound, or headphones. Seriously. Do it.

Difficulty is another thing I briefly touched on earlier; I’m not lying when I say this game is tough as nails! Due to Rise’s young age and limited durability, his health is extremely low early on – A direct hit from two or three bullets WILL kill you, with elemental damage such as fire or electricity being some of the most hazardous to Rise. Each enemy has some form of projectile, explosive or melee attack, from giant killer zombies to swarming sentry bots, to even landmines.

Bosses are another BIG part of the game, and go back to the age-old, tested and tried formula of “Bosses are a challenge of skill. Not just a harder enemy.” – Bosses will test things you’ve learned up to that point, with the first boss (Which you can see above) testing your accuracy amongst most things, with his weak spot being placed in an area that requires you to manually control your bullet (Which stops you from moving!), aim it correctly whilst moving, and fire it off blindly at breakneck speed – I think Rise & Shine gave me the most fun I’ve had with any boss fights so far just due to the skill required and the frantic nature of them.

However…The game isn’t without SOME faults. For one, the challenge is sure to put a lot of people off, that’s certain; my main complaint though is with some of the writing. The narrative of the game isn’t this game’s strongest suit, and relies a lot on poking fun at gaming culture, memes, and nostalgia to get you engaged – Characters like the Legendary Hero end up frankly flat, characters are killed off in disappointing ways just to poke fun at irony, and the lack of detail in many mechanics (Such as the target-icons that appear when breaking some things…I still don’t know what they do…) lead to a somewhat frustrating journey. If you don’t like your hand being held, however, you may find solace in this.

Overall, there’s not too much more to say on Rise & Shine – Some characters are likeable, some just disappear, and some are just killed off outright for irony’s sake – The gameplay is difficult, and doesn’t hold your hand too much, and the references to gaming culture are up there in the hundreds.

If you’re looking for a good-looking and challenging game that may make you chuckle here and there and go “Oh that’s from xxxxx game!”, then Rise and Shine is certainly for you. If you were coming into this expecting all laughs and something a bit more casual, then I’m afraid you may be disappointed…

I’d rate Rise & Shine an 8 / 10!

If you want to check out the game, you can find their Steam page here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/347290/