RIVE: Ultimate Edition Review – Switch

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RIVE: Ultimate Edition is a sci-fi side-scrolling shooter that puts you in the pilot seat of a kind of spaceship/tank vehicle called a spidertank. There are missions with puzzles that need to be solved by shooting your way past robotic guard drones as well as by hacking certain devices using a hacking tool equipped on your ship. Explore the levels gaining new powers, new types of ammunition, and new tools to help you in your quest. Beyond the campaign mode, there is also a mission mode that allows you to go back and replay old missions to try and improve your high score and a challenge mode that will give you daily challenges to try and be the best on the leaderboards. Also, there is a mode that will just send endless waves of enemies at you to see how long you can last.

If you’ve never played a twin stick shooter before, RIVE is going to be one of those games that takes you a little while to get accustomed to as far as the controls go. But, once you get the hang of it, it gets pretty intuitive to move around the levels with the left stick and to shoot in the direction that you point the right stick. As you progress in RIVE, you will also unlock special ammunition types that will act like special abilities.

Certain portions of the game are in zero gravity, which allows you to traverse in full 360 degree freedom. The very first section of the game plays like a modern-day Asteroids. Other parts of the game will have gravity, so you will traverse it like a regular platformer, needing to jump over obstacles and use the vehicle’s double jump to overcome your environment. The gameplay is very fast-paced and frenetic, but fun.

The combat is satisfying. The enemies don’t feel like super bullet sponges. The bosses are challenging and fun to fight without feeling completely impossible. Usually, as is the norm with games like this, there’s a trick to them that once you figure it out they become much easier to defeat. The overall pacing to the campaign felt very nice, also. It never felt totally overwhelming with never-ending hordes of enemies, but never got boring with nothing but jumping puzzles and nothing to shoot. There is a very nice balance between everything, which kept me very engaged in the game the entire time I was playing it. Along the same lines, the story is just interesting enough to tie the levels together and give you a sense of purpose, but not so in-depth to add unnecessary weight to the game. It’s a light game, focused on the fun of traversing and blowing things up; nothing more.

Exclusive to the Switch version of the game is a 2 player mode called “co-pilot” mode, where the first player drives the vehicle and the second player is in charge of shooting. After dying, you switch roles. This is a really cool way to take advantage of the native local two-player gaming that is so definitive of the Switch.

The other game modes are enjoyable, as well. The ability to go back and play missions over again in order to try and get higher scores is a good way to let you focus on completing the mission the first time, knowing that you can always go back later and find all the secrets and get the highest score possible.

The Challenge mode is quite interesting; giving you different things to focus on each time you play. In a way, it reminds me of the daily challenges from Spelunky. The Battle Arenas will keep throwing enemies at you to see how long you can last. This is a good way to bathe in the destruction the game can offer without worrying about any of that other distracting stuff like puzzles or platforms. There are also speedrun modes and single-credit modes, which adds plenty of different ways to challenge yourself and see just how good a spidertank pilot you are.

I was particularly impressed with the lighting effects as you traverse the levels. They are very well done, giving you a dynamic, 3d feel to an otherwise very 2d game. The backgrounds are also nicely detailed, creating a very atmospheric experience for a game that, on the surface, doesn’t seem like it should be immersive at all. The sound effects for the game are also perfectly suitable. The basic machine-gun sound effect, which is probably what you hear the most of is satisfying without being over-the-top, and the explosions, which occur frequently, are similar in being satisfying without being too much.

Really, when it comes down to it, the game strikes a nice balance with everything. Where many games of this style focus too much on one aspect or another, this one really seems to find that fine line between too little and too much and just rides it all the way through.

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