Monday, 19 September 2016 00:00

RIVE Review

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The main screen features a stupid joke, and I'm already happy.

You pilot your small, nimble ("a bit cramped") vessel around wrecked spacecraft in search of loot, but encounter a ship with sentient AI, and you might be up against more than you can handle.

I started without looking at the controls, and that was the right call --everything worked exactly the way I expected. The physics felt good, and it didn't take long before I knew how to move around. The main question was how long it'd take to grow tired of the wise-cracking, Stallone in Over The Top-esque pilot. He was annoying alright, and yet eventually, he grew on me. The dialog between our hero and the main antagonist also was a tad dry, but I enjoyed that their relationship exists somewhere between friendship and animosity, advantageous and symbiotic.

Gameplay consisted of driving and floating through and shooting everything in sight, but mechanics stayed fresh via the shapes and styles of each level (some feel like Earthworm Jim, others like Geometry Wars), the weapons I kept adding to my ship, and an ever-increasing presence of baddies. There were only a few different kinds of enemies to fight, which made RIVE easier than it could be. Having said this, they were the proper amount of pains in the butt, each presenting a challenge shaped by the level itself.

Only a few different Big Weapons could be added to my ship, which gave at least a bit of strategy to play. Pacing at which I obtained them was perfect: powerful enough to be useful, weak enough that they needed to be used in the right situation. Available frequently enough, that I didn't feel the need to hoard (i loathe video games where I'm clutching my sweet bomb through the whole game only to win without using it).

The other trick up my sleeve was Hacking, which allowed me to get enemy robots to fight for me. Honestly, it wasn't as useful as I thought it should be (except for Smashbot, who's my new life partner). The game also lagged at times (and even crashed once or twice) when enemies filled the screen, but, honestly, that did little more to annoy me than Nintendo did back in the days. It's probably a spot of poor programming and with a game well done like RIVE, I will not troll about it.

Linear, with no choices to be made , and none of the levels having puzzled me in any way, I wouldn't recommend RIVE to those who want to be intellecutally engaged.

It's here to be fun, difficult, and it just feels right. Like the Nintendo games of the mid-90s where you just had to coordinate with the controls, figure out timing, what weapons to use when, and know exactly how close you can get to enemies without getting smoked.

The graphics and music felt complete, they blend well with the game (I wish I had more to say about these because I know people work hard on them).

References. Oh my good god, the references in this game. Movies, music, and of course video games. I won't list them out of fear, not wanting to miss so many, but I'll tell you this: they were not shoe-horned in awkwardly. They're part of the narrative, the level design, the feeling of the game.

I was a little confused as to whether points mattered at all, and still more at a loss to explain how I earned money (which is spent on upgrading the ship). Not concerned, just confused.

Boss fights were decent; they were properly difficult and frustrating, but when I lost, I also knew it wasn't my fault. If this were an arcade game, god, it would be a quarter-eater all day.

I had a love-hate relationship with the save function, which was automatic and difficult to predict. Each level had checkpoints (waves of enemies cleared or stage of boss defeated) after which it would automatically save. But sometimes that meant saving while in a dire situation, which led to a loading screen, only to re-die immediately and unavoidably, repeatedly. Not good. I also wished that if a save happened right before a snappy bit of dialogue, I could have opted to have him shut up after the tenth time I reloaded.

Joe's Assorted thoughts

I want to keep dying to see what other death messages I can get...
Will I get anything for shooting out every single light?
Uhm. Space butterflies?
"joe, who would want to be mentally challenged?"


The Verdict

Nothing new but tons of fun. It read like a love letter to old video games and I'd have gladly signed at the bottom. If you're feeling nostalgic for old space shooters, check this one out.

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Joe Pilato

Joe Pilato works as an engineer and pub quiz host while developing his skills as a standup comic and storyteller. You may occasionally find him wandering the streets of NYC looking for adventure or possibly running into the woods to hide from civilization for days at a time.