Rant and Rive
It warms my cholesterol-laden heart to see shmups making a resurgence, especially in an era where the first-person shooter reigns supreme. It’s also refreshing to see new shmups try out different concepts and gimmicks, even if I occasionally take a purist approach and feel like the genre in its unaltered form is the best possible experience. Nonetheless, it was with an open mind that I decided to try out a preview of RIVE, the wicked fusion of shmup and platformer that also serves as the retirement announcement of developer Two Tribes. Is RIVE any good? The short answer is: yes. Yes, indeed. The long answer is… well… carry on reading.
Upon first boot, you’re placed inside an asteroid field where the level auto-scrolls. It doesn’t take long for you to realize that your ship moves around rather freely and that you’re able to fire in all directions. Already here, the melding of typical shmup and twin-stick shooting comes into play, with gameplay that gets frantic right off the bat. Besides the assortment of space rocks, you’ll come across malevolent robots who have no qualms about firing back. Before long, the screen is awash in bright colors and explosions as bullets and projectiles fly about like luminescent insects.
Just when you’ve got a handle on things and think you’re dealing with another standard shmup, you suddenly come across a star ship. Our protagonist enters it and finds gravity taking hold, enabling jumping and effectively turning things into a platformer affair. The action will switch back and forth between platforming and shmupping for the remainder of the campaign, constantly keeping players on their toes.
Your ship can also be upgraded, opening up options for new skills and weapon types. There’s also a much-flaunted “hacking” mechanic, which allows you to interact with the environment and enemies in new ways. Hacking can unlock a door to allow progression, or it may turn an enemy robot into an ally. One such example is a type of drone that may be hacked to function as a healer, following the player around and replenishing their health as they take damage. It’s a great little mechanic that does a superb job of breaking up the monotony of shooting.
The time I had with RIVE was extremely enjoyable and it looks set to be a real blast when the final version releases. Controls occasionally seem slightly floaty and the difficulty can drop and spike, but it’s hardly game-breaking. The very enjoyable shooting and twitchy action more than make up for the minor faults. It’s also graphically attractive, with a memorable soundtrack and plenty of flash and charm. The story’s not exactly Shakespeare but the protagonist is likable and it’s light-hearted fun. Add that all to a game which contains throws interesting new twists at the player and we have a likely hit on our hands.
I’m disappointed that RIVE will be the final game by Two Tribes, but it serves as an excellent swan song for the company. The story is silly fun, the shooting is very satisfying and it has a lot of interesting gimmicks to keep players interested. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the vehicle sections from the NES classic Blaster Master, and that’s plenty of reason to give it a look when it releases on the 13th of September. Even if you’ve never played Blaster Master, it’s still a great shooter experience mixed in with a bit of platforming. When it releases, you’ll be able to snag it at its official page here. Go for it, because it comes highly recommended.