Adding to the growing library of great indie offerings on Nintendo Switch comes Rive: Ultimate Edition, a game by the talented team at Two Tribes. I’ve been a fan of Two Tribes ever since I picked up Toki Tori for Game Boy Color, a charming puzzle adventure featuring the titular yellow bird, with a difficulty curve that’s spot on. For their final game, Rive, the developers have completely shifted gears and created a shoot-’em-up that shares the same outstanding presentation and fun gameplay but little else.
Rive is a shoot-’em-up where you alternate between navigating your spider-like ship in space or water, in which you can move in all directions, and more platformer-like missions, where you are bound by gravity and can double jump. You shoot and move with the two control sticks, use ZL to jump, and use ZR to fire off one of four specials that you can buy as you progress through the game. The game runs smoothly, although the controls can be problematic at times. The jump button feels awkwardly placed, most notably in one frustratingly difficult section near the end of the game which has extensive jumping (by the time I got through that section I felt like I was developing carpal tunnel in my left hand). The control sticks themselves felt overly sensitive when using the Switch’s Joy-Cons, which becomes more apparent when playing through sections that require more precision in avoiding lasers and the like. The controls aren’t an issue for the most part, but more customisation options would have really helped.
The specials feel unique, although I only ended up really using two of the four. The game is divided into missions where you explore different parts of a space station that are connected to a central area, which you return to in between missions. The missions are self-contained levels, and at times you’ll revisit previous areas that have changed (e.g. become flooded with water), which adds to the feeling that you’re in an actual space station.
Rive has a good amount of enemy variety and a unique mechanic where you can hack several robots. This is underutilized for the most part, but the core game is fun enough that it’s not a big miss, and there are some hacks you unlock nearer to the end of the game that are particularly fun. The game is full of set pieces and satisfying boss fights that are well designed for the most part, although there are some encounters that get boring due to being of the overly long “repeat pattern over and over again until enemy’s HP has been whittled down” variety. There are also a number of distinctly try-and-die type of sequences that require rote memorisation, although the checkpoints are so plentiful that they’re not much of an issue. Apparently the hard mode is the mode that the developers intended you to play, and although it will take a fair amount of skill to get through even the normal mode, it’s very satisfying to complete it.
On top of all the great gameplay, Rive also has great visual and audio design and an entertaining story, although with the constant explosions and particle effects the visuals can get overly busy, making it hard to see the action. Also at times the dialog has a few too many meta references to video games. The main character, Roughshot, is gruff but likable, and his interactions with the ship’s robot are fun respites in between the intense missions. There are also a slew of other modes to round out the main story mode, including speed run and single-credit modes, the ability to replay missions at any time to work your way up the online leaderboard, and additional missions for you to earn medals in (e.g. survive a constant onslaught of enemies for 75 seconds). There are also achievements that offer additional challenges, such as beating parts of specific missions without using specials.
Rive was released on PS4 and Steam about a year ago, and it’s great to have it on Switch. Despite the rough patches, the game is a lot of fun with a lot of extras for after you’ve beaten the main game. It’s a great shame that this is Two Tribes’ final game, but with Rive: Ultimate Edition they’ve definitely gone out with a bang.
Disclosure statement: Review code for this game was provided by developer Two Tribes. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.