RIVE – Preview
PC, Xbox One, PS4, Wii U
The twin-stick shooter has had something of a revival in recent times. Assault Android Cactus, Super Mutant Alien Assault and Rogue Continuum have all enjoyed a recent release and have all brought something new and interesting to the genre. Well, there is a newcomer on the block and it too has something fresh and exciting to show off. The game is RIVE and I was lucky enough to get my hands on a preview build of what is shaping to be an exciting shoot-everything-that-moves experience.
RIVE has a very basic setup. The main character, who happens to be piloting a tank of death and destruction, crash lands onto a massive spaceship while searching for scrap. The spaceship is basically one big death trap, but a death trap with the promise of a huge score, so off the hero trundles in search of fame and fortune. Yeah, I know it isn’t much of a story but hey is that really required in a game such as this? The game also attempts to throw in some humor with varying degrees of success. Some of the meta jokes are worth a giggle but a lot also seem to fall flat.
So while the story may not set the world on fire the gameplay certainly does. At its heart, RIVE is a twin-stick shooter crossed with a Metroidvania style game. There are elements of other titles in there as well with the gunplay at times feeling like Metal Slug and the odd occasion when the game stops being a platforming experience and becomes a space-bound SHUMP. The deceptively simple starting hides quite a bit of depth and variety, with almost every section of the game introducing a new element to mix things up.
One of the best features I found in my time with the game (the first 7 levels) were the challenging puzzles. These puzzles, while not brain taxing, required some thinking outside of the box and more than a little skill with the controller. I had to turn on gravity wells to stay above lava, avoid moving laser beams and hack annoying turrets all while shooting at waves of enemies flying to my location. I found it both an intense and satisfying gameplay loop that was helped by the fact that the penalty for death seemed just about right. Never did I get frustrated with a difficult set-piece because each time I died I simply went back to the start of the section. No retracing my steps over large parts of the level to cause frustration and no instant respawns to make the game too easy. It shows that a nice amount of thought went into making the game challenging without causing rage.
So far my time with RIVE has been pretty satisfying. There are a few little issues like the sometimes groan-inducing jokes but in all, I think developer Two Tribes is onto a winner here. The melding of different genres has worked a treat creating a game that shares similarities with other titles but still manages to feel unique and fresh. Barring a major breakdown between now and release, both shooter and platform fans should be keeping an eye on this one.