With Christmas just around the corner, plenty of kids, both inner and outer, will be making their lists and checking them twice — no matter if they’re naughty or nice. If they’ve been bad, they’ll surely get a lump of coal; if they’re good, maybe they’ll get some fabulously fun toys.
And, if they’re really good, they’ll receive Riverbond for Christmas, the shoot ‘n slash co-op voxel hit coming to the Switch on December 10.
Developed and published by Cococucumber and originally released for PS4, XBox One, and PC earlier this year, Riverbond is an absolute delight for kids of all ages with an emphasis on kids (more on that later). Shoot, slash, slap, smash, and swing your way around nine different levels arranged in a Mega Man-esque style. Save the land, rake in the high score, and generally wreak havoc in this family-friendly smash hit of the season that will be sure to please even the pickiest gamers.
The premise is simple — you, the hero(es), have been dropped into this brightly colored and perfectly geometrical world. Why? Well, something terrible has happened to the Eldra, the spirits of the land of Riverbond, and it’s up to you to save everyone! From tasks such as collecting eggs to freeing villages of pirating parrots and porcine pikeman, the stages within levels get progressively more difficult until the last one, where a gigantic boss is waiting. Can you defeat all the enemies and beat the big baddie within the time limit? Riverbond’s fate is in your hands!
Controls are intuitive — with mostly melee weapons at your disposal (with the odd firearm here and there), you’ll more or less be in close combat with the varied voxel villains scattered across Riverbond. Treasure chests scattered throughout the stages make this mission a million times more fun, as random weapons, such as lollipops, ice cream bars, and giant hands, keep things silly and interesting while still packing a punch. It’ll be sure to garner a giggle or two!
Graphics definitely pop, and I’m happy to say that they get better and better as the levels go on. From the colors to the lighting to the animation, the voxel style of Riverbond is its best asset and just screams personality. The character design is really well done — I had a lot of fun finding different skins to swap out between runs (I got to choose Bastion — yes, that Bastion!), and the diversity between bosses is superb. The soundtrack is surprisingly soothing — I got PS4 menu vibes from it — yet upbeat and certainly catchy.
Gameplay is fun, but somewhat shallow. I don’t mean that in a bad way, and it all depends on your skill level. Remember how I said I’d bring up kids later? So about that — if you’re a seasoned, veteran gamer, you might find this repetitive and ultimately pointless if you’re not a high score chaser. There’s no real strategy needed, as dying simply transports you back to a formerly activated (but never far away) waypoint with all your progress saved. Even the boss battles prove relatively simple — despite the short time limit, you can easily beat most of the bosses by walking up to them and taking them to town tank-style. They’ll absolutely wail on you and you’ll die over and over again, but once their health drops to zero, it’s curtains for those cubes, with you — on your umpteenth life — emerging victorious. If you’re looking for a meaty challenge to really sink your teeth into, this isn’t it…
…but if you’re looking for a chill, relaxing game with some action to zone out to in-between your other games, or if you’re a kid, this is definitely for you. It’s bright, it’s fun, it’s easy to pick up for five to ten minutes, and it’s got that soothing music and overall feel that will make gamers young and old immediately think Minecraft. There’s literally nothing to lose here if you fall into either of these categories — Riverbond is definitely for you.
After looking through previous reviews of Riverbond and being shocked at what I felt was an unfairly low score, I realized this is one of those classic cases of audience confusion. With gameplay this simple and straightforward that doesn’t punish players for taking too hard of a whacking, it’s better suited for very casual or young gaming. I can easily see myself playing Riverbond with my nephews on Christmas morning (aged 7 and 10) and having this be a Christmas they’ll remember forever as “the one when their auntie bought them their favorite game”. If I’d received Riverbond in grade school, this would easily be the number one game I’d play throughout the year. With extremely high replayability, gorgeous graphics, amazing animation, and an outstanding OST, Riverbond aims to please and hits all the high notes. Santa is definitely giving Riverbond to all the good boys and girls this year — after all, they deserve the best!
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: XBox One, PS4, PC, and Switch (reviewed); Publisher: Cococucumber; Developer: Cococucumber; Players: 1 – 4; Released: December 10, 2019; MSRP: $24.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a retail copy of Riverbond given to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.