Tuesday, December 26, 2017

RIVE: Ultimate Edition (NSW) Review

Time to bring the heat at the start of winter with a RIVE: Ultimate Edition review for the Nintendo Switch. Blast off and blast those robotic pests to smithereens!

Arrive, survive -- Do it all with RIVE.

It's always fascinating when a developer shakes up a popular or classic genre of video game and adds its own spin to it. That's what Two Tribes gives players with RIVE: Ultimate Edition. However, the way the developer innovates is by shaking up two individual game genres, both classics: the platformer and the shoot-em-up. The end result is a 12 mission game that is just as hard to beat as it is to resist.

RIVE has you playing as a rough and gruff pilot of a ship (with the same name as the title of the game -- just without "Ultimate Edition" included, for you cheeky jokers out there) investigating a derelict space station at the edge of the galaxy. All of the dialog within RIVE is voiced, and the pilot and the robotic A.I. that routinely follows him throughout the facility both deliver fine performances with some witty and humorous lines.

As I said in the introduction, RIVE is part platformer and part shoot-em-up. Platforming segments occur in gravity-centric areas of the game, deep inside the station with several examples (such as no-gravity zones). Platforming is performed with the left shoulder button, allowing for a double jump as well. Meanwhile, you're required to do some swift dodging and evading as enemies oftentimes swarm on top of you. Thankfully, you have firepower yourself in the form of a cannon that shoots out lasers and sub-weapons that require ammo to use.

A different kind of space odyssey.
The fluidity of changing play styles is incredible in RIVE: Ultimate Edition. At one moment you'll be using one stick to move and the other to aim at targets, all the while leaping from platform to platform and avoiding enemy fire, while the next you'll seamlessly switch to flying in a zero-gravity sector, such as space, in auto-scrolling segments reminiscent of the 8-bit, and 16-bit arcade classics. Occasionally you'll even be forced to face in one direction in true classic shoot-em-up style while others have a more modern approach with 360 degree aiming and movement.

Rather than use a typical shoot-em-up sub-weapon system of collecting items to equip a power-up and then losing it when you die, you instead purchase sub-weapons (along with added armor and the ability to attract goodies like loot and ammo from afar) from a post-mission shop that uses space junk collected from fallen foes as its currency.

The sub-weapons come in four varieties, can be switched between with a press of the correct direction on the face buttons, and each has its own intended place to be utilized. For instance, the Shotgun is perfect for lining up an antagonizing group of enemies in a narrow, enclosed hallway and blowing them all to smithereens with one powerful blast. Whereas if you're in a less claustrophobic locale, such as a wide open area with plenty of room to it, Homing Missiles may be just what the doctor of destruction ordered. Again, sub-weapons require ammo, so you can't just mash on the sub-weapon button to continually use it over and over again. Each sub-weapon has a charge time before it can be used again, so it's imperative to use them in high stakes conflicts with enemies.

So much for "335 days since our last workplace accident", huh?
Outside of traditional weapons and sub-weapons, later in the game, your ship acquires the ability to hack into other drones. This grants you a teammate, so to speak, albeit a bit of a fragile one, to battle alongside you. It can take to your defense while dishing out damage to other enemies. A lot of the time it's merely great as a distraction for other enemies while you take the opportunity to go to town on them. Never take your eyes off the opponent, grasshoppers!

One of the biggest downsides with RIVE: Ultimate Edition comes from something to do with my own (and most likely many other players') skill level and not really the fault of the game itself. For me, RIVE was brutally difficult. One's health and armor gets taken out rather fast in even the easiest of difficulties (Normal, whereas Hard mode is far more challenging but boosts your score for the game's online leaderboards). I wish there was a slightly easier difficulty that would deliver less damage to my ship whenever I got hit. In exchange for that, this easier difficulty would disqualify you from being on the leaderboards. It'd be a nice trade-off this way so lesser skilled players would be able to practice particularly unforgiving missions.

Blades, lasers, and foes are all ready to kill you. Can you survive?
What further annoys with RIVE is that upon taking damage, the screen gets a red gradient around the edges of the screen. As more and more damage is taken and one's health is lowered to critical levels, it makes things hard to see. Simply put, when you're close to death, countless enemies are swarming to your location, and you can't make them out or know where to aim, it gets a bit frustrating to die because the developers didn't come up with a better way of displaying critical health without partially obstructing your view. It merely makes a hard game even harder.

These grievances said, the checkpoint system is mostly well thought out, so repeating significantly sizable segments of missions seldom ever occurs. This smart placement of the majority of checkpoints ensures that players won't get overly irritated over constant deaths (and you will die constantly at first). Furthermore, the brisk loading times between your vehicle exploding and placing you back to your last checkpoint, make retries of mission segments nowhere near as agonizing as they could have been.

That may look like a disco ball, but it's actually a zero-gravity zone.
...It also sparkles when disco music plays.
While RIVE: Ultimate Edition isn't recommended for players who don't like games with high difficulties, for veteran fans of either platformers or shoot-em-ups, the Nintendo Switch iteration of RIVE offers some truly tricky, action-packed missions that most will want to play through on Normal difficulty (which is already a massive challenge) and on Hard, which is perfect for high-score types. Competing on a global online leaderboard, comparing scores with folks on your Switch friends list, and even partaking in the one-credit-only run-through of all 12 missions (the latter being the most daring) add even more replay value to this capable dual genre package. All this and the ability to come up with combinations of cuss words you've never heard of can be yours with RIVE: Ultimate Edition.

[SPC Says: B-] 

Review copy provided by Two Tribes.

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