Some games are made just to tempt gamers to throw their controllers. Rive offers intense twin-stick shooting gameplay but does it provide a fair enough challenge?
Rive is played like a lot of twin stick shooters except it's more varied than you'd expect. It starts with you soaring through a space scene while shooting at oncoming asteroids and turrets. Soon, you'll land in a massive station and the gameplay shifts to more of a platformer where you move around, jump, and shoot. The stages are extremely linear but that's okay because the action is so crazy that exploration would be a bit too much. The enemies are absolutely relentless so make sure that you're up for one intense challenge before taking on Rive. Throughout the impressively lengthy campaign, you'll come across many various scenarios that mix up the gameplay so it never gets boring. You'll find yourself riding on speeding trains, facing giant bosses, battling in arena-style rooms, and even playing through a classic 2D shoot 'em up section. It's definitely exciting stuff!
Visually, Rive is full of awesome 2D effects such as huge explosions and screen shakes that make the onscreen action even more insane. Besides that, the graphics aren't anything special. The music is great with heart-pumping arcade-style tunes while the sound effects are subdued as to not get annoying. They are satisfying, though. Perhaps the best part of the presentation is the protagonist who seems like your average bearded tough guy but there's a lot more to him than meets the eye. He's a gamer and frequently makes references to gaming that are hard not to smile at such as allusions to games like Gradius and Woah Dave. I like his gruff voice and he's an overall relatable chum. You definitely don't get to see characters like him often enough in modern games.
There's a bit more to just shooting in Rive. You can also upgrade your vehicle to increase its armour and magnetic capabilities as well as purchase four additional weapons. These should be saved for sticky situations (which pop up more often than you'd think). Being able to swap between them so you can adapt given certain circumstances is very well implemented although you may not have enough time to do so when the enemies come flying at you. Finally, you can enter hack mode and take control of a few different kinds of robots such as turrets, healing bots, and droids that smash into everything in sight. Overall, these abilities and upgrades make shooting more fun.
Although Rive sounds pretty cool so far, it suffers from one major issue that holds it back from being a thoroughly enjoyable adventure. Basically, it forces you to memorize everything before you can progress. This is due to the fact that almost every death comes by surprise. Whether it's a block falling on your head from out of nowhere, an undetectable hole in the floor, or a new kind of hazard that ends your life in a flash; it gets frustrating very quick. No human being would be able to complete the entire campaign on their first attempt without dying no matter how good of a gamer they are. It's enraging, unfair, and frankly ruins an otherwise well-designed game.
Rive has a couple of other minor issues, too. First, checkpoints seem randomly placed. Sometimes when you perish, you start off in the middle of an arena battle which can be irritating as you take a bunch of hits immediately after continuing. Other times, you have to play somewhat long stretches all over again. It doesn't make sense and considering Rive is so ridiculously difficult, why not put you right back in the action? Lastly, after you beat the game, you can challenge the campaign in either speedrun mode or one-credit mode. I have no idea why anyone would attempt either of those so as far as I'm concerned, there is almost no replay value to be found.
I wanted Rive to be a good game. In fact, I absolutely loved it at first. However, after playing for hours, I can safely say that it's designed to frustrate. I love a challenge but when that challenge is unfair; I'd rather play something else.
- + Ridiculously hectic and varied action that'll keep you on the edge of your seat
- + Likeable hero and enjoyable references
- + Satisfying upgrades and hack system
- - Relies far too much on memorization with countless surprise deaths
- - Checkpoints seem randomly placed
- - Very little replay value after you beat it