Rive: Ultimate Edition

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Key Info

System: Switch
Developer: Two Tribes
Publisher: Two Tribes
Release Date: 17 November 2017
Price: $14.99 / £13.49


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Reviewed by Phil Myth

Plenty of games are tough, but where others may offer you the opportunity to adjust your load out, equip different skills, or just grind to level up before trying again, Rive just kicks you back and says ‘get good’.

A wonderful marriage of shmup and platformer, it sees you take control of a space faring spider tank, exploring a space station for loot. As the – paper thin – story progresses it instead becomes about escape, which you do so simply by blasting everything that stands in your way.

The machine gun your spider tank is equipped with is fired using the right stick, letting you shoot in any direction and adjust quickly to incoming threats.

Not for the faint hearted

Adjusting quickly is the name of the game here too, because enemies come at you thick and fast. Some are dotted around the the corridors you work through whereas others will attack in waves, comprising certain set pieces you have to complete before moving on.

Some of these set-pieces are absolutely brutal too, and more than one of them had me stumped for a good while. You’ve really got to be on the ball to react to each enemy wave, and take them down accordingly. Combat leans in to the reaction based gameplay synonymous with shmups in a big way.

Quick thinking precision is the name of the game when it comes to traversal though too. Whilst there are some areas of the game where you’re moving around weightlessly, much of it is based around platforming sections and some of these are just as unforgiving as the combat, if not more so. They require perfectly timed jumps and incredibly quick reactions if you’re going to make it through.

Some people may find the slim margins for error too frustrating, and I confess I got worked up myself once or twice, but when you do finally time everything right and succeed, it feels great. There were a few occasions where I punched the air shouting ‘get in!’ after finally besting a particularly challenging section. These platforming set pieces aren’t quiet affairs either, you’ll have plenty of enemies to contend with as you work your way through.

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Non-stop action

The enemy variety caps out fairly early on, so surprises on that front are more or less limited to the opening salvos, but what enemy types there are will try and take you down in different ways.

Some will just fly at you, others fire lasers in your direction, whilst a couple more try to roast you alive. You soon figure out the best ways to dispatch each one, but the sheer pace at which they come at you means combat is always exciting.

Besides your standard machine gun there are four other weapons you can unlock to take down your mechanical opponents. These offer a little variety in effects, but are one use only until you can replenish with an ammo crate.

Enemies drop these fairly regularly so you rarely go long without having them as an option, but to be honest, most of the time your machine gun will suffice. They do come in handy in some of the more relentless areas though, buying you some much needed breathing room, so they’re not completely surplus to requirements.

Hack and flash

The other skill you have is a hack function. As you add different abilities to it, you’re able to hack into these enemies and recruit them to do some damage for you, albeit for a limited time. Utilising these abilities lets you solve certain puzzles, better dispatch your foes, and also move through each area. This adds another welcome variation on the running and gunning.

The levels themselves are plenty varied, whether you’re swimming through water or fleeing lava, each locale throws up it’s own challenges, but they all look impressive.

The game as a whole looks clean and polished, and mechanically it’s absolutely spot on. The frame rate was rock solid, even when action got particularly intense. It looks and controls brilliantly.

Verdict

Rive then is not one for the faint-hearted. It’s not a game where your progression hinges on your character getting more powerful, but rather on you mastering it’s mechanics. Some may find that a little daunting, but I actually appreciated this old-school approach, even if it did leave me yelling in frustration from time to time.

All in all I would say it felt a little short, I got through it in about 4 or 5 hours, even with the constant deaths, but the brevity did mean that there were no filler sections. It’s pretty balls out from start to finish with a consistent level of quality. It ain’t easy, but if you like a challenge and you appreciate old school shoot ’em ups, Rive is definitely one to check out.

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Pros

+ Fast paced action
+ Variety of challenges
+ Slick presentation

- Can be frustratingly tough
- A little on the short side

Phil MythRComment