RIVE review (PS4)

RIVE is the latest and last game for Dutch indie developer Two Tribes, whose members are moving on to other projects now. Are they going out with a bang? We checked out RIVE and here’s what we found.

Quite unlike Two Tribes’ previous games, RIVE is a hardcore 2D shooter – a big change of pace from the puzzlers/platformers we saw from them earlier. At first glance, the game is a bit similar to Scram Kitty DX in that you roll around the levels and shoot enemies, but RIVE is a different kind of challenge. Where Scram Kitty has you rolling on walls and ceilings and doing acrobatics, RIVE is much more of a classic twin stick shooter with an emphasis on combat. And that combat is of the difficult variety.

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We actually met with Two Tribes’ Collin van Ginkel during Gamescom in August, and got our first sample of the game then. I got to play a level that you normally don’t encounter until you’re about a third of the way in, and had a tough time beating it. I got close one or two times, but the final boss got me every time. This taught me one thing: RIVE throws a serious challenge your way, even if you’re used to classic shooters. Sure, I had missed out on part of the learning curve by skipping the first few levels, but the final game shows a similar experience.

Progress in RIVE is relatively slow. Despite being able to upgrade your vehicle and getting stronger, you’ll rarely beat a level on your first try. In fact, I got to a point where I couldn’t even beat a level on attempt number 25, and that’s when a little frustration set in. The key, for me at least, was to go back to earlier levels and become even more comfortable with the controls before trying again. Five or so attempts later, and I got it.

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RIVE is fairly simple in nature… roll back and forth, (double) jump, grab pickups and shoot bad guys. There is also a hacking mechanic that allows you to turn the enemy’s equipment against them, which is a good skill to master early – before things get too hectic. And they will. RIVE’s levels are a bright and colorful mix of lasers, lava, gunfire and explosions, rendered in high quality cartoon-like graphics. It’s easily Two Tribes’ most impressive title, visually speaking.

A bit like a bullet hell shooter, you have to put in time to learn enemy firing and attack patterns if you’re to beat the game – and I’m sure it won’t appeal to everyone. RIVE walks a careful line between fun and frustration, and it really is up to the player to decide where they fall on that spectrum. If you’re easily frustrated, then RIVE might drive you crazy. However, if you enjoy twin stick shooters and a hefty dose of challenging gameplay, where you don’t mind a steep learning curve, then this is a wonderful indie game and a worthy end to this small developer’s lineup. It’s also loaded with plenty of references to pop culture and other videogames, which is always fun.

Score: 7.9/10

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