It’s always sad when a company closes its doors. Two Tribes, creator of games like Toki Tori, RUSH, and EDGE, have announced that RIVE will be their final game before they leave the video game industry and enter something else. Since this is their swan song you would expect a certain level of quality to be put into it. So is RIVE that polished gem of a final game, or does it end Two Tribes on a whimper?
In RIVE you’ll play as Roughshot, a spider tank pilot who stumbles upon a mysterious ship. He originally plans to just break in and loot it, but he quickly finds himself trapped by the ship’s only resident, an AI named Daryl Lloyd-Lancaster. Now forced to deal with Daryl’s desire to create killer robots, Roughshot needs to figure out a way off of the ship. There’s really not much to the actual story, but it’s carried by Roughshot and Daryl both being rather well-developed characters. The two of them have entertaining conversations about what led them to the ship, their love of classic video games, and more. It also helps that both characters are voiced, rather expertly, by Mark Dodson. He does a fantastic job, something that really assists with the story telling.
RIVE starts off playing like a simple 2D platformer/twin stick shooter hybrid. You have a machine gun and get access over time to four special attacks that see you launching swarms of homing missiles, firing huge shotgun blasts, and more. Your goal is to escape the ship you’re trapped on, blowing up a lot of things along the way. Thankfully RIVE has some tight controls. Jumping, movement, and shooting all feel nice, and at no point did I ever feel like I was getting killed due to poor controls rather than me just messing up.
It’s good I felt this way because RIVE also doesn’t hold back at all with difficulty, to the point where the story mode is actually titled “hard mode”. The game is tough, requiring you to be very precise and have a decent amount of skill to get through its fights. Enemies seem to come in endless swarms and you’ll need to find creative uses for your limited special attacks and add in some skillful use of the jump button while shooting to take care of them. While it can be fun and challenging, RIVE also has a bad habit of falling into unfairly hard territory. This isn’t helped by sometimes unfortunate checkpoint placement. While I never had a problem with checkpoints being far apart, I did sometimes have problems with checkpoints spawning me in the path of danger. One checkpoint, for example, spawned me above a deathtrap, requiring me to instantly use a double jump upon respawn or face death. None were ever inescapable, but it was annoying to have to remember to move or die right away.
You do have one special ability to help you in all this, and that’s your ability to hack robots. At the start of the game, you can only hack nurse drones, which will heal you over time. Later on, you can also grab turrets to double your firepower, smashers to ram enemies, and a few situational robots. In theory, it’s a pretty neat idea that should allow you to buff yourself with your enemies when needed. In practice, it’s not as available as I would like, as hackable robots only really show up during specific story points. You always know when there’s going to be a big fight because the room is loaded with hackable bots.
Thankfully this doesn’t distract from RIVE‘s explosive encounters. Many of these fights are unique, taking advantage of the game’s mechanics. One fight has you having to jump in and out of a water area. You can’t fire from the water, but enemies also can’t hit you. It leads to a fun fight where I was constantly jumping in and out of the water like a crazy fish, taking the few shots I could before I fell back in. Of course, RIVE never lets things get stale for too long, and soon lasers would sweep the top while a buzzsaw swept underwater, leading to even more frantic dodging with my diving around. Other fights may temporally turn the game into a SHMUP, an experiment with a lack of gravity, or more. There’s also a trio of boss fights, though I was a little disappointed that of the three, two of them were basically “normal enemies with big health bars.” It’s only the final boss that requires some creative shooting and thinking, so it’s a bit of a shame the others don’t try something like that.
There’s also a healthy amount of platforming in the game, with it having its own challenges. You never really get any new platforming abilities in the game, Roughshot starts with a double jump and that’s all you’ll need. Despite this, I had to use this to land on small platforms surrounded by lava, quickly navigate through small tunnels rapidly filling with lava, avoid blocks raining down from the sky in a big homage to Tetris, and other activities. It’s not as well fleshed out as the combat, which is still the star of the show, but the platforming is a welcomed and fun distraction.
After you finish the campaign, you unlock a couple different modes to play with. A speedrun mode times you to try and get through the game as fast as possible, while a single-credit mode allows you to try and complete the game with a single life. I’m nearly positive the latter is impossible, to the point where the developers admit in the trophies that they haven’t actually tested the possibility of finishing the game in said mode. Still, if you’re a fan of insane challenges, there’s one for you.
Graphically, RIVE looks good. There’s a bunch of things happening on screen at once, leading to an entertaining delight. The explosions in particular look nice, clearly a lot of work having been put into them. Enemy designs are simple enough, easy to tell apart and make sense when they’re built by a robot. I already mentioned the fantastic voice acting before, but I feel it deserves another mention thanks to how good it is. On the other hand, the soundtrack is mostly forgettable, nice while you play and not much beyond that.
As far as swan songs go, RIVE is a fitting one. An explosive finale for a studio, it features some great gameplay mechanics and fantastic polish around a good story with some wonderful voice acting. While it’s a bit of a shame the hacking isn’t really used enough and the bosses don’t hit their mark, I still suggest RIVE for anyone that wants their action fix. Whatever Two Tribes chooses to do next, if this is the quality they’re bringing with them then that industry is lucky to have them.
It's always a shame to see a company hand in their final game, but Two Tribe's RIVE is a fantastic swan song. Featuring some tight shooting and platforming with difficult and creative fights and some really entertaining and well-acted characters, RIVE shouldn't be missed by anyone looking for a fast-paced explosive romp.
- Well Written Characters
- Fantastic Voice Acting
- Awesome Shooting Mechanics
- Fun Platforming Segments
- Hacking Isn't Used Enough
- Checkpoints Can Be Terrible
- Lack of Unique Boss Enemies