Developer: Two Tribes
Publisher: Two Tribes
Platform: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Category: First Person, Arcade, Platformer & Action
Release Date: 17th of November, 2017 (EU & NA)
Hack, shoot and double-jump your way through a hostile ship controlled by an odd AI bot all in an attempt to grab some loot in Two Tribes’ Rive: Ultimate Edition. This fast, frantic and brutal shoot-em-up is ludicrously enjoyable.
Rive was originally released back in the tail end of 2016 and is sadly developers Two Tribes’ last game. Since then, they decided to bring the game over to the Switch, and I couldn’t be more thankful. But what makes the Switch version the Ultimate Edition apart from being able to play it on the go? A few things, actually. It loads faster and plays smoother than it ever did on the PS4, it has more achievements, employs fantastic use of the HD Rumble effects and you can play the whole thing in the new two-player co-pilot mode. These are all nice upgrades, but still, the main meat of the game is its campaign. It took me just over three hours to finish the story, but this time will vary depending on your skill and whether or not you play it in hard mode. For this review, I played the game on its normal difficulty settings, which was plenty difficult enough.
The word rive means to split or tear apart violently. You will be torn apart violently quite a lot here. Rive is a shoot-em-up platformer where you’ll have to take down all sorts of foes with your 360˚ machine-gun of destruction. You’ll dodge thousands of bullets, missiles and lasers with your double-jump and slick pace of movement, but you will get hit, a lot. Thankfully, Rive isn’t a one hit and you’re done sort of game. You have a health bar in the top-left of the screen that can get depleted at an alarming rate if you aren’t careful. Take one hit from a standard enemy bullet and you will lose just one nodule of health, but each hit sends you backwards (from where you took the hit) – you can take hit after agonising hit if you’re not careful, bouncing off of enemies until your little craft can take no more and explodes with you in it.
Luckily, you won’t lose much progress upon dying as checkpoints are in plentiful supply. Indeed, upon respawning, you will have perhaps even a little more health than you did when you reached the last checkpoint. You always respawn with a minimum amount of health, so if you enter a checkpoint with just one health nodule remaining, getting yourself killed could be the best thing to do. This is a game full of tremendous explosions, some from you, but a lot more from the enemies. Indeed, throughout the short (but oh so sweet) campaign, you will face off against thousands of enemies, each one enough to cause you a problem, let alone when you’re fighting all the forms and trying to cope with environmental hazards. It can all get a bit much, especially in the game’s frantic boss battles.
The bosses come in all shapes and sizes, and (apart from the brilliant final boss) they reappear later on in the game as regular enemies. You have one that is shielded from any attack you throw at it unless when it is dropping several enemies in on you to attack. Thankfully, if it is all getting a bit much, downed enemies do drop items. Every enemy will explode into a bunch of small cogs, which you can spend on upgrades such as improved health, new special attacks and an increased area of magnetism to pick up dropped items. Along with cogs, enemies will drop special weapon ammunition and health pickups at a fairly common rate. Don’t go sitting on your powerful shotgun blast as you’ll come across more ammo quite regularly.
There are four special weapons to unlock including the aforementioned shotgun blast. You can fire off several homing missiles (they can hurt you too though!), shoot out dozens of bouncing bombs that fills the screen with flying red dots of destruction and there is a weapon that stops enemies in their tracks, even disabling pesky things such as shields so you can get a small breather or blast them to smithereens. All of the special weapons have their perks and each one is assigned to a face button corresponding with their placement on the game screen. It can be tricky to operate the movement, jumping and shooting and trying to switch between your special weapons, but this just adds to the challenge of the game.
Indeed, you will be pressing the “ZL” button to jump all over the place, moving with the left analogue stick (or D-Pad if you so wish), shooting by moving the right analogue stick in any direction you want and pressing the “ZR” button to fire off your special weapon. Your thumbs get a work out in Rive, that’s for sure. There are more controls to learn, too. In the game, you can hack certain boxes, turrets and even enemies. With a quick tap of “R”, the screen turns green and you use the right stick to move a light onto the thing you want to hack into. Hacking a turret is great fun and super useful, giving you two lots of machine gun fire for the price of one (for a limited time only), perfect for those plentiful pesky rooms that won’t let you leave until you blast down every enemy.
It does all of this, and the frame rate never skips a beat. Whether played in handheld or docked, Rive: Ultimate Edition looks and plays excellent. The game seriously looks fantastic, with a slick sheen not seen in other eShop titles. Not only this, but the package as a whole is finer, too. The writing is sharp, witty and gloriously self-aware. The bearded, toothbrush sucking Roughshot is constantly making remarks about his surroundings. You’ll hear him talk about video games and gaming tropes time and time again. Rive is a surprisingly funny game. You can even shoot down the AI bot as he’s talking to you if you don’t want the story. When you finish a stage, you’ll shoot fireworks into the sky, akin to none other than our favourite moustachioed plumber who recently went on an adventure of his own.
You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll blast your way through Rive’s intense campaign. If you want more of the game, you can always replay it with a buddy in tow, one player controlling your ship’s movement, and the other the shooting. If this isn’t enough, each stage has a detailed leaderboard to help you get one over your friends, and it can all be played with just one life and on speedrun mode (everything can be played in co-pilot mode). But wait, there’s more. There are a fair number of difficult challenges to tackle, and battle arenas that send wave after wave of enemies hurtling towards you in a simple score-attack mode. Rive: Ultimate Edition has plenty going for it, but I do wish that the campaign was a little longer.
Rive: Ultimate Edition hearkens back to when video games were difficult, arcade experiences, but is allowed to shine thanks to some great graphics and a fun story full of self-aware commentary. The campaign is one of the best in the shoot-em-up genre that I have ever played, but I wish it was longer. Sure, there’s plenty to do after finishing the game, but it’s not as fun as the excellent campaign.
THE VERDICT: 8/10
*Review Key Provided by Two Tribes