Rive is a 2D platformer shoot-em-up side scroller and is the last game to be developed and published by Dutch company Two Tribes. It follows roughshot, a character piloting a large armoured spider. You have a heavy machine gun with the gaming cliché infinite ammo equipped on your vehicle from the start, as well as being able to upgrade your vehicle’s special attacks at certain points in the game.
The gameplay itself is good. With any side scroller you know roughly what you’re going to be getting, and this one does live up to expectations. There is one part right at the beginning which involves you flying around and shooting asteroids into little pieces, which was a nice homage to the great retro game Asteroids. The game difficulty overall seems to be a bit on the difficult side, with the only option available from the start being hard mode. It’s one of those games where it takes a few goes to learn the best way to get past each stage, but the checkpoints are fairly regular, so it’s not that arduous of a task to continue the mission anyway. There is an option in the settings menu to enable “soft mode”, where the difficulty is easier and there are more regular drops of health pickups; the downside is that the score earned is decreased by 50%, which I think is overkill really. There are other game modes as well such as speedrun mode and single-credit mode, but these aren’t unlocked from the beginning.
The visual design of the game is very good, with clear, clean and colourful graphics. The effects on this game are really nice, with some great explosions. The audio on Rive is very important to mention too; the music is well done and mixes perfectly with whatever stage of the game you’re at. The voicework for the character is well done, obviously it’s only snippets here and there, but it’s good. The sound effects are the final point of the audio, and really rounds off the sound quality to the game in general, with pretty good rocket jumps and gunshots standing out most of all.
The story behind the game doesn’t really give you much to go on at first. Rive starts off very vague, obviously trying to prompt you to explore the missions. After the first stage is cleared, it explains you noticed a high density metal object on your radar four days ago and have now managed to infiltrate it, but with no explanation of who or where your player is or why he’s even there at all just leaves the game a bit too blank. Some missing info creates a mystery, but a small amount of backstory would still be helpful, making exposition one of the few parts of any classic game that doesn’t appear on Rive.
The humour in the game is something that does deserve recognition, it makes jokes about it being a game in a similar way to Deadpool making jokes about being a comic book superhero and it’s fantastic. It’s just little things like to start the game it asks you to “press the any key”, when you die it tells you to “press a button already…” and at the start of the first mission the character decides to “put on some classic game music”. It’s only little things here and there but when a game is self aware like this it can get away with more in my opinion, and it feels a little more fun right from the start. The robot you are driving even shoots celebratory fireworks when you complete a mission, which kind of reminds me of the little celebration you get after finishing a level on Mario.
Now, the issue with this game is that if you strip away the nostalgia to try to find something original, you just don’t find it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an enjoyable game to play (until you get beaten repeatedly and throw your controller across the room in a blind fit of rage, of course) but it’s just that with the lack of any actual story at the start of the game it’s left feeling a bit hollow. It is a really well made game, it looks and sounds fantastic, literally a paragraph about your character or 30 seconds of skippable dialogue at the start and you’ve got yourself a fantastic sidescroller. Not knowing why you’re here is by no means even close to game breaking, it’s just the only problem I couldn’t find a way to let go of and it does annoy me.
In light of the fact this is Two Tribes’ last game (according to their website) it is a fitting send off, but it is a pity, this is still really good and had they kept going I think they could have made a really amazing game down the line.
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