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Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, WiiU, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Developer: Engine Software (EU), Two Tribes (US)
Release Date: Nov. 17, 2017


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Switch Review - 'Rive: Ultimate Edition'

by Cody Medellin on Jan. 2, 2018 @ 12:30 a.m. PST

Rive is a metal-wrecking, robot-hacking 2D shooter/platformer with old-school gaming values with a new-school execution.

Buy Rive: Ultimate Edition

Two Tribes achieved early success with its first game Toki Tori, which was initially published by Capcom and was eventually released on a number of platforms from the Game Boy Color to the Nintendo 3DS. From there, the company mostly did contract work for other licensed games before branching out on its own with Swords & Soldiers, Rush, and the inevitable Toki Tori 2. However, the game industry as a whole can be harsh and, in 2016, Two Tribes filed for bankruptcy with its upcoming game, Rive, served as its swan song. For a finale, it sure is a good one.

In Rive: Ultimate Edition, an iteration of the game that was recently released for the Nintendo Switch, you play the role of Roughshot, a space scavenger who makes a good living for himself with his spider-tank. One day, he runs across a huge abandoned ship in the middle of an asteroid field, and his scanners indicate that the ship is filled with loot. What his scanners fail to recognize, however, are the hordes of machinery hell-bent on destroying anyone who sets foot on the ship. Unfazed, Roughshot plows through the enemies in hopes of a big payday.

Rive can best be described as a side-scrolling, twin-stick shooting platformer. Most of the time, your spider-tank jumps and double-jumps from area to area, and some stages abandon gravity for flight. In almost all of those situations, you'll be able to use your right analog stick to shoot in any direction with your limitless supply of bullets. You'll also be able to use other special weapons you purchase along the journey, like a shotgun and heat-seeking missiles. While those ammo supplies are more limited, you'll still be able to get them from fallen foes, so you can use the special weapons rather liberally without much repercussion.

In addition, you can hack modules in the ship and bots. For the modules, that means opening doors, but bots add an interesting wrinkle, since it can mean anything from a bot that heals you to a mobile turret for extra firepower.

Despite the game taking place in on giant ship, it isn't quite open and can't be classified as a Metroidvania title despite the fact that you do a bit of backtracking now and again. Instead, the journey is much more linear, since game levels are punctuated by boss fights and hard breaks that note chapter ends and beginnings, complete with a final score tally for that stage. There's a sort of old-school pacing, as the stages come in at just the right length and the battles are frequent enough that the few moments of respite are appreciated. Each of those moments is punctuated by some thrilling fights with somewhat overwhelming odds, and the result is a game that nails the gameplay, especially as it progresses to levels with moving platforms and zero-gravity bubbles.

Having said that, while Rive can be considered short if you look at the number of stages, it's actually a game of an appropriate length because of how tough it is. From the various traps that confine you to small makeshift rooms to the relentless nature of enemies you encounter, each fight can be rather harrowing. Enemies and traps don't get you with just one hit, but with so many of things that can attack you at any time, a comfortable life buffer can easily be dwindled down to nothing if you're hit by a barrage of foes and traps. Many of these situations can be survived to the point where you'll celebrate even if you come away with only a sliver of health.

If you can overcome the challenge, which can be menacing even if you play the game at its lowest difficulty setting, there are plenty of things that will keep you returning. Aside from the ability to replay missions with varying difficulties, Challenge mode gives you small parts of levels and distinct goals for each one, such as squashing cockroaches in a set amount of time, escaping a stage with some health left, or dying a few times. Battle Arenas, on the other hand, are all about survival, and a ton of enemies is swarming you at all times. Every facet of the game also comes with a leaderboard, and while they aren't cross-compatible with the other platforms, you can try to best the other Switch players.

The Switch version has one exclusive gameplay mode: multiplayer. Like many other games on the system, it takes advantage of the system's ability to treat the two Joy-Cons as separate controllers, so no extra hardware is needed. However, the approach to multiplayer isn't traditional, as it doesn't designate a second spider-tank for the extra player. Instead, the game has one player controlling tank movement while the other controls tank firing direction, and the roles switch every time the life is spent. It's weird but different enough to check out at least once.

Graphically, Rive looks very nice. There's a clean look to the game despite the dilapidated industrial setting, and lots of details come through for every element, from background to foreground, even when the system's in docked mode. Particle effects and light bloom are everywhere, so the molten steel gives off a nice glow, and defeating a ton of enemies ensures a shower of sparks and debris. Animations are fluid, and the frame rate remains rock solid, whether on portable or TV mode, so you've got an experience that's on par with all of the other platforms the game is on.

On the audio side, the game sounds very good. There are only two voices you'll hear in the game, and while Roughshot talks so much that he can be annoying to some, his voice still has a good delivery to it. The music goes for an action sci-fi vibe that encourages high action, especially during boss fights, and the sound effects deliver just the right amount of punch to make every shot impactful.

Rive: Ultimate Edition is a fantastic addition to any action-loving Switch owner's library. The action is almost non-stop, and the difficulty feels well-balanced between putting you at the edge of death while still giving you the means to overcome it. The game length feels just right thanks to this challenge, and the many different modes amplify the high score chase that becomes the impetus to keep playing. For a studio's final game, this is the best possible way to leave a lasting impression.

Score: 9.0/10

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