General game information
Game name: RIVE
Release date: September 13, 2016
Price: US$ 14.99 (with a 15% launch discount bringing the price down to US$ 12.74)
Genre: Twin stick shooter with bullet hell elements and platforming sections
Developer: Two Tribes
Publisher: Two Tribes Publishing
RIVE is a twin stick shooter with platforming sections and bullet hell elements. It’s also quite hard, and not all gamers may enjoy its particular brand of punishment.
The game starts as the playable character, a likable space scavenger named Roughshot, stumbles upon a massive spaceship in the middle of an asteroid field. Movement feels great, and Roughshot’s vehicle has a machinegun with infinite ammunition that can fire in a 360 degree angle, just as one would expect from a bullet hell game. After the player is done blowing up asteroids, the game wastes no time introducing the AI that controls the ship’s vast assortment of enemies and setting the tone for the five hours journey that is about to start.
RIVE‘s gameplay is fast paced and the controls feel responsive. The left analog stick (or W,S,A and D keys) controls the ship/spider tank’s movement, and the right stick (or the mouse) aims and fires the machinegun. As players progress through the campaign, they will earn nuts and bolts that can be used to upgrade their vehicle’s armor and special weapons. Defeating bosses or beating certain levels will add different “hacks” to Roughshot’s arsenal, letting him take control of some enemy types and accessing places that were previously locked. This mechanic feels underused at the beginning of the game, but as players gain more hacks, a lot more possibilities open up.
Every special weapon has a specific use, and beating the game without them would be a titanic task. In order to balance the special guns’ power, Two Tribes put a limit of one use per ammunition box, which may feel a bit too restrictive at times, but it works out fine more often than not, thanks to the abundance of enemies to destroy.
RIVE‘s story isn’t particularly inventive, but the developers have a marvelous sense of humor, and a knack for gaming and pop culture references that makes everything feel a lot better than one would expect. The ending is surprisingly clever, and gamers won’t feel like they wasted their time playing the campaign.
Two Tribes‘ swansong excels in the artistic department. The game’s audio design is simply spectacular, featuring voice acting by Mark Dodson of Star Wars and Gremlins fame, and a beautiful soundtrack tying everything together. Graphically, RIVE looks incredible as well, with a cartoonish look that brings the action to life spectacularly. Destroying robotic swarms feels very satisfying, and every explosion sends hundreds of tiny metal parts flying everywhere.
As we said at the beginning of this review, RIVE can be really tough, and part of that difficulty comes from a questionable design choice. The game’s main enemy type is a kamikaze robot that usually comes in groups of four or more, and for some strange reason, the developers decided to sic those enemy swarms upon the player as they attempt to get through particularly tricky platforming sections. This mechanic can become annoying pretty quickly, and gamers who dislike having to go through the same section over and over again may want to think twice before getting RIVE. Another mild annoyance is the reliance on fights where the player is cornered and has limited mobility, since it’s hard to get out of the way of a suicide bomber when there isn’t a lot of room to maneuver.
Luckily, the game’s boss fights are genuinely inventive, and, aside from the aforementioned platforming sections, most encounters can be beaten at the first try if the player is quick on the draw and has a good eye for shooting robots. After the 5 hours long story campaign is over, two new game modes can be selected, a Speedrun Mode, in which gamers must attempt to clear levels as fast as possible, and a Single Credit Mode, in which the game ends as soon as the player dies.
Ultimately, RIVE is a masterfully crafted game that can be easily recommended to hardcore shooter fans. It’s high difficulty level may scare away potential players, but those who stick with Two Tribes‘ final game until the end will not be disappointed.
8/10 – Very good.