RIVE has been on my radar for quite some time, having played and previewed it a couple of years ago. The last game to be developed by Two Tribes, it’s a fast and frantic corridor shooter. You take on the role of Roughshot, a Spiderbot pilot on the hunt for loot who stumbles into a derelict spaceship that is much, much more than it seems.
From the moment you start the game you’ll be firing the bot’s machine gun with unlimited ammo at enemies and the scenery. As a twin stick shooter, you’ll use the right analog to shoot 360 degrees while navigating the levels with the left. It sounds simple enough, but Rive is an incredibly tough game to master. In fact this is a game where you will die dozens if not hundreds of times through its six hour campaign, as you run, jump and gun through the hordes of enemies.
When you are moving through an area at speed taking down robots, Rive feels really fluid and it looks excellent. Explosions fill the screen as you take out the hordes, and at first the difficulty level is nicely balanced with incremental new challenges, but around the halfway mark the game ramps up. There are a number of times where you’ll be weaving between the enemies firing in all directions feeling invincible, but then there are other moments where frustration sets in because the layout of a stage works against you.
The difficulty spikes do a lot to remove that momentum, and that’s one of the major drawbacks for Rive. The fast and frantic shooter that is promised is hamstrung when you butt up against a difficulty spike. There’s also a particularly unpredictable boss battle that the characters acknowledge after the fact, which was irksome to hear. There was no sense of accomplishment tackling a tough part, just relief that it wouldn’t need to be experienced again, as I took a short break from the game.
Yet Rive is an enjoyable game outside of those points. It captures the character of classic shoot ’em ups while adding its own little twist to the formula, and there is one stage that is a straight up homage to the genre. This actually turns out to be one of the better levels in the game where everything clicks together. In fact, in the areas where Rive is well balanced you can see that the game has the potential to be one of the best in its genre, but when you hit the walls you have to wonder what the level designers were thinking to create situations which slow things down so much.
You can upgrade the spiderbot in between levels as long as you have the correct amount of loot. These upgrades include better armour and a better magnet to attract loot, as well as adding special weapons. These weapons require pick ups to work and each has its use, be it firing a bunch of missiles or setting up a Tesla shield which can stop enemies from moving. Your main gun can’t be upgraded though, which feels like a bit of an oversight considering how much you’ll use it.
As you progress you’ll also get the ability to hack certain enemy bots, like a medical bot that can heal you, a turret bot that gives you double the fire power, and a smashing bot that can break through barricades and charge into other bots. These hacked bots can only be used for a limited time before they expire and aren’t always readily available either.
Rive isn’t just about the shooting though, as some of the rooms will contain small puzzles to solve. They are simple enough to work out and are good points to get a bit of a break between hordes. If you fancy a challenge, a speedrun mode and single credit mode unlock after completing the main game, but there’s also a soft mode, should you find an area too difficult. This makes your gun 50% more effective and allows for more med pack drops, but it doesn’t reduce the power of enemy attacks.
Rive is easily one of the best looking games to be released this year. It’s cartoon aesthetic and vibrant colours make the action look amazing, while the music fits well too. The voice acting is of a decent quality as well, with silly one liners and various pop culture references making up quite a lot of the script. If you don’t care for the story you can actually destroy the AI bot that talks to you in some scenes, though it will return later on.
Rive doesn’t quite reach its full potential, but shoot ’em up fans should give it a go anyway. The frustrating difficulty spikes are hard to ignore, but when it comes together, it’s a fantastic fast-paced corridor shooter which could have been considered one of the best 2D shooters in recent years. Either way, it’s a good send off and farewell for Two Tribes.
Version tested: PS4