Rive and Shine…
Developer: Two Tribes
Publisher: Two Tribes
Reviewed on: PS4(Review code provided)
Right from the off, Rive gives you a clear indication of where it’s coming from. The main menu simply has “Hard Mode” and no other choices to offer you. Emanating from a green CRT themed monitor, you leap into a crazy spider/spaceship hybrid and immediately crash land on a strange ship, to be greeted by a floating robot that’s not unlike something you’d see in a Valve title, pinning its intentions firmly to the mast. This game is going to be brutal, it’s going to be frustrating, and it’s going to be funny. An odd mix, but for the most part, it works pretty damn well.
Starting off as a twin joystick shooter, Rive quickly flips your expectations and seamlessly drops you in an action packed 2D platformer. As you’d hope, the primary weapon has an unlimited stream of bullets available to you, allowing you to blast your way through vast swathes of enemies in the environment. Explosions go off left, right and centre, and when things get hectic, they get REALLY hectic, really quickly. The frame rate never drops though, maintaining a solid 60 throughout, and the cartoonish art style is absolutely gorgeous.
Part of the issue with Rive is the frequent, and almost vertical, difficulty curves. There will be points where you’re absolutely breezing through enemies, then all of a sudden you’ll face a screen that has you gnashing your teeth together and trying everything you can not to throw your controller through the window. Hordes of floating spheres that are oddly reminiscent of Portal 2’s Personality cores come from seemingly nowhere, and flying pink discs of death quickly become the bane of your existence, with them hurling themselves at you and exploding like a spinning TNT-laden blancmange.
Bosses feature heavily in Rive, and they’re often brilliantly designed, in keeping with the technicolour cartoon styling. As with the general gameplay though, there are some horrendous difficulty spikes, with a penchant for the annoying. Some of the later bosses also feel a little bit too random to fully get a gauge on them, and as such lead to yet more frustration.
Unlocks are garnered at a steady pace, with you picking up nuts and bolts to use as a currency at the upgrade station. Switching between the more powerful secondary weapons is done with the face buttons, and each feels suitably different from the last. Additionally, you can pick up “viruses” in the levels, which allow you to hack into some of the enemies that patrol the halls, giving you a floating buddy that will heal you, act as a second stream of bullets, or smash through walls. It’s a nice mechanic that allows for some other options when things get crazy!
Breaking up the action are a few interesting little puzzle rooms, which won’t tax you too much, but it’s nice to take a breather every now and then. There’s an element of MetroidVania gameplay within Rive as well, with your intrepid pilot being dumped back to the same area in between levels, and having to leap onto a warp pad to get yourself around. Areas are re-trodden, but often with a subtly different twist on them, pushing the game’s length out just that little bit more. All in all, it took me just over 5 hours or so to finish Rive, which then unlocked a Speed Run mode and a “Single Credit” mode, for those with a tendency for insane difficulty levels in games.
The narrative within Rive is pretty good, with the initial reveal of the spaceship crumbling to reveal something entirely different. I shan’t spoil it, but things get revealed at pretty much the right moments and it doesn’t feel like it’s dragging its heels. It makes it all the more frustrating for having the difficulty spikes which interrupt the game’s flow. The humour that permeates the entire game is, by and large, great, with a heavy emphasis on references to other games and pop culture. It’s not quite on the level of Guacamelee’s meme-heavy posters, but it definitely sticks more often than not. Your character, Roughshot, is never short of a quip, and it makes for an enjoyable experience for the most part.
Rive is a gorgeous looking game, which has taken two styles and fused them together pretty successfully. The blend of traditional twin joystick shooter and action platformer fits perfectly with what Two Tribes have done, but there are some caveats. The insane difficulty spikes destroy the pacing of the game at times, and sometimes the feeling when you get through an area that’s causing you trouble isn’t triumph, but relief. I suppose it’s to be expected from a game that starts off with its only playable mode being “Hard Mode”. Despite this, however, Rive proves itself to be more than competent, and is genuinely one of the better looking games of the year so far in terms of style. A game that fans of the genres should enjoy, Rive deserves your attention, but may well struggle to hold it all the way through.