RIVE is the metal wrecking, robot hacking shooter you’ve been waiting for!
This is the opening line for the description of the game on the Steam page, and I would outright say that it is pretty much true. It’s sad that a game, so good is the last piece of art work by one of the oldest indie developers around. Yes, this is Two Tribes’ last game after a fantastic slew of releases over the years such as Toki Tori, Edge, Rush etc. Rive is a 360-degree twin stick shooter with platforming elements, which is quite challenging and is at the same time a lot of fun.
You are a no-name badass spacefarer with a rather harsh voice and a short temper, piloting a spiderzord mounted with a machine gun which has unlimited ammo. Upgrades are found as you move on which include not only character upgrades, but also some other intesresting stuff such as hacks, that makes the game even more exciting.
The game starts off in the an zero gravity asteroid field and unfolds into a very challenging, yet rewarding series of sequences that leaves you wanting more of the action. These days, difficult games are often mis-treated as good games. Hard does not necessarily mean that the game is unfair and Rive perfectly melds the line between being frustrating and challenging. You may die many times in the play through, but the save points are very appropriately placed and never make you go through a 10 minute sequence to reach the point and die again, neither do your deaths affect the score, so you can can try over and over again without much repetition, and owing to the short length of the game, you will not feel that you died enough.
The gameplay involves mainly, shooting opponents till they die. All enemies except bosses do not have a health bar and everything is communicated via visual cues to the player. The upgrades that you attain over time are very helpful on occasions and you don’t have to worry about their ammo, even though they are a one-time-use-per-pickup. These special ammo drops may seem random at first, but actually they are dropped by almost every 6th or 7th grunt in the game, and considering that there a huge number of grunts it’s not so rare after all, so using the special ammo by mistake does not put you in any major fix.
The main fun aspect about the gameplay, which I found was the fact that you could easily interweave between enemies using your double jump and the precision with which you shoot enemies, destroying them to bits feels quite a bit satisfying. Also, you can redirect the rockets aimed at you, though I don’t know if the redirected rocket hits an enemy or not, because I didn’t notice it. The hacking of robots, which is a central mechanic of the game is used a lot in later stages of the game.
The upgrades that you get, are actually awesome according to me, because choosing the right special weapon in a pinch can decide your fate. Firing rockets too close to the character damages us, so care needs to be taken when deploying it. I’ll not give spoilers on other weapons, but they sure as hell are exciting. Other upgrades include health increase and magnet increase. Also you get hacks for grunts which act as side-kicks further on ahead.
The premise is simple, you basically find a ship that is ready for some serious pillaging and later on your goal is to escape the ship after you have had your fill of loot. Though the story is just bare-bones, the pacing of the game is exquisite. I never felt bored and there is almost no hand holding, so that’s a plus.
As I have said earlier, Rive is a challenging game, but is not all throughout equally so. Some areas you’ll think, ‘This is a breeze’ and the next moment, a situation may come up that may make you want to pull your hair out. Consequently this does mean that the difficulty curve in the game is all over the place, but that does not hold back the enjoyment. Oh yes, the game does not have a system of invincibility for a short time after getting hit, meaning that if you don’t shoot a bunch of robots, don’t expect most of them to go through you after the first hit. So small mistakes are punished almost immediately.
[Special Note: While I was playing the game in it’s Press Build, the game kept crashing at mission 3, even after a few restarts to the whole game. After about 2 days an update came by and then I started playing it again. So I basically played till chapter three about 5-6 times, says a lot about how much fun I was having.]
Another aspect I liked about the game was the open endedness of it. Being a 2-D platformer and not a metroidvania, I was surprised at the amount of playable space I had. It had that Uncharted 4 type of feeling, as in, the whole game is actually linear, but there is some kind of open endedness to it and that pleased me a lot (It may just be my opinion).
Visually the game is very appealing for a 2-D platformer and is unlike the majority of 2-D games that are 8-Bit, and try to use nostalgia as a crutch to get you to play. This game proves that good gameplay will push you to play a game irrespective of other factors. Considering that the game looks so good, I was surprised that the game ran on my crappy laptop at 60 fps, which indicates that the game is well optimized. The art direction, as I have said is great and the game is one of the finer looking 2-D platformers in the market.
I’m not a great judge of music, but the game has it to my liking, so I won’t comment on it much. The shifting of intensity of the music kept me going till the end, is what I got to say.The voice acting is decent and so are the overall SFX effects.
One thing that Rive does to shoot it’s own leg lies in it’s protagonist and the story. I would say that he is a double edged sword, because his presence brings life to the game, but his quips partially fall short of having an impact on the player. But yeah, the addition is not necessarily a bad thing. Whereas the story is just there to keep things in perspective and is only reminded to you at various points in the game.
Rive also excels in one aspect that games over the years have actually lost- the exploitation of gameplay mechanics. Many games let you know about the mechanics early on, make you use an ability in one part of a 10 hour long game, and then allow you forget it. Rive has an advantage of having less mechanics and a less overall game time, but the gameplay mechanics are never wasted, you’ll always find some use of mechanics at your disposal and that is one aspect I loved about the game.