Version Tested: PlayStation 4
Available On: Playstation 4, Microsoft Windows, Linux, SteamOS, Macintosh
Developer: Two Tribes
Publisher: Two Tribes
Official Site: https://www.rivethegame.com
Release Date: September 13, 2016
Where To Buy: Steam, Playstation Store
With the popularity and demand for difficult games on the rise in recent years, Rive comes in at the right time. This intense platforming shooter packs plenty of challenge for even the most well-versed fans of the genre. It has an old school feel and a throwback soundtrack that will evoke memories and nostalgia for the days of simple arcade gaming. Unfortunately, it fails to do anything to truly stand out from its peers.
Rive takes place on a spaceship where the protagonist Roughshot finds himself searching for loot. This seems to be Roughshot’s sole purpose in life until he finds himself trapped on the ship. Then his purpose involves escaping from the ship with his loot. The ship is controlled by an annoying AI robot that remakes itself no matter how many times you blow it up. Overall, Rive is pretty light on story. What Rive is not light on, is challenging platforming and shoot ‘em up gameplay. It gets intense and can be fun and exhilarating at times. Other times it can be incredibly frustrating.
You will die in this game, it’s just a matter of how many times. There is only one game mode to start – Hard Mode and it is indeed hard. While the gameplay is solid, at times the difficulty feels like it stems from unfair obstacles that can only be conquered by repeatedly dying and figuring out the correct sequence of movements rather than player skill and this is where the frustration can begin to build. If you die enough times in succession, the game attempts to show mercy by offering you a retreat into soft mode, but honestly, if you’re not playing this game for its challenge, there aren’t many other reasons too.
During some moments, the only thing that kept me going is the thought that “It has to be possible…right?” This led to times where I was forced to walk away and take a breather before returning and trying again. Fortunately, there are tons of checkpoints that mitigate the frustration as it’s possible to have one or two checkpoints during a single fight. The ramped up difficulty isn’t constant either and Rive isn’t as sadistic as some games. The problem lies more in what feels like a lack of payoff for your hard work. While some areas do give you a genuine sense of accomplishment for clearing them, others mostly make you glad to finally get them out of the way.
The biggest problem with Rive is that it lacks memorable moments or fights. They all seem to blur together in retrospect. The bigger boss fights are fun, but there are only a few of them with other difficult sections more often than not just containing an insane mixture of enemies that you have to dodge and dive between while taking them out. Even the last boss fight feels pretty lackluster and has no real buildup. There is also very little diversity in the enemies you face throughout and the 10th or 11th mission doesn’t feel much different or more advanced than the third or fourth.
Aside from shooting your main gun and jumping, you have a special attack that is one-time use and needs crate pickups to be restored and a hacking ability where you get enemies to fight for you. The hacking ability is the most interesting mechanic as each enemy has different abilities and uses that make battles a bit more interesting.
While there are parts of Rive that can be technically defined as puzzles, I don’t remember any moments of having to stop and think my way through a room unless it was figuring out the best combat strategy (which was often just not to die). The game is pretty linear and doesn’t encourage much exploration. Most of the levels feel pretty much the same with water or anti-gravity thrown in for variance when you retread old ground. There are exceptions such as a mission where your gun gets disabled and you’re forced to get your way through by hacking enemies (the punchline for why your gun doesn’t work ends up being annoying rather than funny). These shifts in playstyle help break things up a bit, but they are short and infrequent.
The upgrade system allows you to buy better armor, a better loot magnet, and up to four special attacks. You buy them with currency in the form of nuts and bolts that you collect for destroying enemies and environmental objects. There are four different special attacks to purchase, but you’re fine just sticking with one throughout the game so there’s a chance that your first upgrade will be your only meaningful one as the upgrades to armor and loot magnet don’t really seem to affect gameplay that much.
Rive presents itself beautifully with very polished sights and sounds that fit the old school feel well. The backgrounds and levels look fantastic. The soundtrack has an 80s feel that fits the experience perfectly and creates a nice atmosphere. The presentation groups nicely with the several homages to other old school shooters, both in gameplay and in dialogue. There are side scrolling space scenes where you’re destroying asteroids and one where your gun is locked in one direction. And if you don’t catch the references, Roughshot’s constant reminders saying something similar to “It’s like one of those old video games!” will make sure you don’t miss anything.
The voice acting is pretty generic. Roughshot sounds like a typical New York tough guy with a list of corny one-liners and the robot sounds like, well, a typical robot. It also suffers from some pretty campy writing that fails to make either of the two characters memorable or likable. Its attempts to be funny or charming fall flat, especially with its fourth wall breaks which come off like someone expressing their insecurities before anyone else does.
Once you beat the game, you unlock two new modes – Single Credit mode and Speedrun mode. These both offer the exact same thing as the regular campaign except, yup you guessed it, one time your run and the other sees how far you can get with only one life (which in most cases isn’t very far). These don’t add too much to replayability and the game feels like a one and done kind of experience unless you’re really looking to challenge yourself.
In the end, strangely a game that sounds good, looks great and plays well doesn’t quite have the right mixture of balance and charm to pull it all together. It ends up feeling flat and empty with a lack of depth and memorable moments. If you’re a fan of the genre and like a challenge or are just looking for an intense game that is pure gameplay, chances are you’ll have some fun with Rive. If not, then it is probably best avoided.
- Gameplay: Challenging, Fun, Somewhat Repetitive
- Graphics: Polished and Pretty
- Sound: Good Soundtrack, Generic Voice Acting
- Presentation: Old School, Makes No Secret of Its Influences
- Action-packed Gameplay
- Looks and sounds great
- Repetitive levels
- Lack of memorable moments or characters
- Not enough boss fights
A fiction writer and journalist living in Los Angeles who enjoys all things gaming and film.