Despite sadly closing their doors last September, Toki Tori developer Two Tribes has kept to their promise to bring their metal wrecking, robot hacking shooter RIVE to a Nintendo platform. Once originally scheduled for release on Wii U with a demo that was made available as part of the Nindies@Home promotion, the final game was scheduled to arrive around the same time that they shut shop. But, the developers decided against it due to the technical difficulties that they faced with the hardware.
Instead, they opted to get the band back together and slam it onto the Nintendo Switch – collaborating with another Dutch developer to do so, Engine Software. Finally, it now guns for our attention in RIVE: Ultimate Edition, that is not only promised to run at a slick 1080p and 60 frames per second but Two Tribes has labelled it as the best version out there – running and gunning even better than it does on the PlayStation 4.
If you were to throw Blaster Master Zero with R-Type, Smash TV, Galaga, and pretty much any other 2D-orientated arcade shooter in a bag and give it a good shake, the chances are RIVE: Ultimate Edition will probably fall out as a result. This action packed versatile 360-degree shooter changes its formula at every given turn. One moment, you are blasting asteroids in space, the next, you are having your platforming skills put to the test as you dive around avoiding falling Tetris-like blocks while nailing everything in sight. There are even some moments where your guns directly lock forward, setting you up for some side-scrolling Sine Mora EX-style action. To put it in a nutshell, RIVE: Ultimate Edition is fast, chaotic and a very difficult gunfest of a game.
You play as a thrill-seeking, space scavenger called Roughshot who pilots a sort of spider tank that can handle pretty much any environment that it gets thrown into. Leaning your Right Stick in any direction fires your weapon while your face buttons select any secondary form of artillery that you can purchase with bits of scrap dropped from the debris of fallen enemies. Your ZL Button is used to double jump while the R Button functions as a hacking device that can adopt certain baddies to work in your favour. The controls feel very tight regardless of your environment and you are also able to use the directional pad to navigate if you desire – which can come in handy for those small movements when faced with a blanket of attacks.
One thing I must tip my hat to is how well executed the HD Rumble has been implemented in this game, it’s absolutely glorious. Experiencing the feedback in your hands as you smash enemy robots to pieces is especially satisfying, while taking damage to your trusty little arachnid tank most certainly gets alarm bells ringing. Combine that with the other little subtleties like the impact of your tank landing from a jump and you have a great example how good the Joy-Con feature can be when put to good use. Seriously, the levels of rumble are so well tuned, it even feels good when Roughshot is blogging on his keyboard about his experiences between levels.
The action takes place in a giant Red Dwarf-style spaceship that is looked after by a self-cloning robot that you can blow up for a laugh. The banter between Roughshot and the robot is entertaining, as is Roughshot’s constant observation of the world around him. A lot of the references he touches on are very much game-related, whether it be from classics such as DOOM or Street Fighter as well as the popular genres that litter the industry. I particularly enjoyed his loathing for microtransactions and rubbish tappy-tap mobile games which instantly sealed my fandom for the obnoxious but likeable protagonist.
The level design itself varies the gameplay up constantly as the environment affects the way that you move. One moment you will be fleeing for your life from molten steel, and the next you will be hopping between bubbles of zero gravity while on the attack. The variety is excellent and never allowing a dull moment to hamper the experience. It’s all balls to the wall action throughout as waves of horrible little tin droids constantly try to face plant themselves into you.
The whole thing does get very tough, to say the least, and you will see the game over screen literally mock you time and time again, but the checkpoints in place are more than generous to keep the difficulty spikes fair. Rather than having to trod on for minutes in the part that you are stuck on, you usually instantly respawn seconds away from where you last fell. This conveniently helps you to solely concentrate on attack patterns without wasting time. It certainly eased the rage after many failed attempts until I would finally find myself lovingly staring at my knuckles as I fist-pumped in victory. Unfortunately, there was one occasion where it respawned me in an endless loop of certain death, forcing me to restart a whole chapter from the beginning. It did only ever happen to me once though, but the thought of it did unnerve me a bit when playing through the more brutal sections of the game.
The exclusive addition to the Nintendo Switch version is the multiplayer component, Copilot Mode. You and a friend both co-pilot the tank together, where one player takes control of the movement and another uses the weaponry. If you die, your roles will swap. This sets up a team effort that is far more enjoyable than it actually sounds. Once you’re working together with a complimentary level of skill, you will feel like Tango and Cash as you both participate in an alloy massacre at almost subliminal levels. I tried this mode with my son and a friend in work and it truly allowed us to choreograph the “dance of destruction” that the game’s description so accurately pitches.
The visuals and the sounds are fantastic in this game, both working perfectly in harmony without a hitch of slowdown in my experience whatsoever. It looks clean and crisp on the TV and presents itself amazingly well when portable. The 1080p and 60 frames per second when docked that was promised has been delivered here in spades, which really draws out the steampunk-style 2D visuals at a buttery smooth resolution. The beats to the soundtrack also feel as epic as the gameplay, enhancing the more dramatic moments nicely.
The only problem that I had when playing RIVE: Ultimate Edition besides the small checkpoint blunder, was the realisation that there probably will never be a sequel to this amazing little flexible shooter. It’s Two Tribes’ final game ever, and the whole thing ended a lot sooner than I had wanted it to. There are daily Challenges and an infinite Battle Arena to rack some points on the online leaderboard though, which is always a welcome addition. But, you probably won’t find me pitting myself against the Single-Credit Mode anytime soon. That, along with the Speedrun Mode are tailored especially for the clinically insane eccentrics out there.
To say that I enjoyed RIVE: Ultimate Edition is a bit of an understatement. I absolutely loved this game. It may prove a bit too difficult for some, but, as a bit of a glutton for punishment who grew up with 80s and 90s gaming, I must say that this was right up my street. The action is fluid, the platforming is tight, and the graphics are crisp and clean. If you are in need of a good pliable arcade action-platformer with tense boss fights that makes the most out of the Joy-Con’s HD rumble feature, then you can’t really go wrong with RIVE: Ultimate Edition. It’s a train hacking, tin-bashing good time.