One of the best things about the Nintendo Switch, in this reviewer’s mind, is the depth of titles available. Are they all Mario Odyssey or Breath of the Wild? Certainly not, but having a huge library of amazing indie games available on a console or on the go is a huge boon to the platform, as well as the independent dev community.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big fan of classic games. What I love most of all is developers taking a foundational concept from a classic title and riffing on it, like jazz. Dutch developer Two Tribes did just that with RiVE. It is, at heart, a twin-stick shooter, with lineage that can be traced back to Robotron 2084 and Smash T.V., meaning your avatar (in this case a charming little mech-tank) can shoot in any direction, controlled by a second joystick, independent of movement.
RiVE is a tough-as-nails action platformer that integrates excellent twin-stick shooting mechanics as mentioned above. Like those classic games, it pulls no punches on its difficulty. Checkpoints are frequent, which did help to alleviate some frustration, but the main obstacle being endless swarms of twitchy enemies did strain my enjoyment.
The game controls are extremely precise, but that’s almost a flaw in this case. One pixel off on the right stick shooting will send your bullets sailing harmlessly by your target. I enjoy a challenge, but I got fairly frustrated with this game at several points, even on the “easy” difficulty. It is simply a brutally hard game based off a classic mechanic. To be clear, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it bears mention.
Occasionally, the gameplay would switch from platforming to something akin to a shoot-’em-up with the removal of gravity, which was a welcome change. There’s even an area that removes your gun, forcing reliance on the hacking ability of your ship, a mechanic I definitely wanted to see more of during the game.
Of note in the Ultimate Edition is the addition of co-op (one person moves, one shoots), and some new achievements when compared to the earlier edition. There are also many alternate play modes for arena multiplayer speed-running and high score junkies, which are thoughtful inclusions.
GRAPHICS & DESIGN
The graphics and visual design of RiVE are on point. I loved the wide-open areas contrasting with claustrophobic tunnels full of enemies. The dark aesthetic of the abandoned star cruiser is brightly punctuated by neon lasers, blinking robotic lights, and molten metal, combining for visuals that really grab the eye.
On the Switch Ultimate Edition, I only experienced very slight slowdown two or three times over many hours of play in handheld mode, and never in the same spot. Overall, for as much happens at once on the screen (and man, can it get chaotic), the game performed extremely well. I did enjoy the designs and names of many of the bosses, even if they were nearly all agonizingly hard to defeat. The first main boss that I encountered, the Super Skywhale, took me more attempts to defeat than I could count.
In a previous review, I commended another shooter for their use of voice acting. RiVE attempts to engage the player on a similar angle. The rough-and-tumble junker pilot constantly interjects lines into the action and often tries for jokes, but almost all of them fall flat. I personally looked at it from the perspective that a solitary space salvage-man would be slightly crazed from isolation, but what the developer was going for here doesn’t hit the mark. The music is well done for what it is, and the sound effects were quite good. Explosions, crashes, and mechanical noises abound in RiVE, and they all are immensely satisfying.
Overall, RiVE, while a sharp and well designed game, is severely hampered by its difficulty. If you’re after a challenge, by all means, it is here in spades, but the curve places it well beyond most people’s abilities in general, and will tax many seasons players. Combined with the cringe-worthy monologuing of the crusty main character, I can’t recommend this game as it stands. However, if you see this one on sale, and are after a controller-chucking challenge, RiVE would be worth checking out.
Charlie’s first attempts at gaming did not go well. Repeated, failed run-ins with the first Goomba in Super Mario Brothers 1 plagued his maiden gaming voyage. Undaunted, he would go on to become an avid gamer of all platforms, with Nintendo always sitting atop the highest pedestal. Except for that Halo 3 incident in 2007. We don’t talk about it. It never happened.
Currently, Charlie enjoys playing games on as many platforms as he can get his hands on, with current favorites being the Switch, 3DS and Neo Geo. When he’s not playing games, Charlie is a live sound engineer and manager for his production company, Clear Harmonies, based in Washington, D.C.
Charlie enjoys talking about games nearly as much as playing them, and loves meeting new people, so hit him up!
Plays: All of them games. Seriously.