Rejoice, fellow twin-stick shooter fans, as the genre seems to be enjoying a sort of renaissance at the moment thanks to passionate indie developers and the consoles that help facilitate their creativity. Originally planned for release on the Wii U, RIVE: Ultimate Edition was shrewdly moved to the Nintendo Switch by developer Two Tribes. And thank goodness for that, because RIVE is one of those arcade titles that feel tailor-made for the Switch, especially in handheld mode. Not only is it easy to pick up, but its polished mechanics and charming platform areas will keep you wanting more. Word of warning however: this game can be brutally challenging and is not for the faint-hearted!
The narrative boils down to this: you are Roughshot, a rowdy scavenger who eventually finds himself stuck in a massive, ramshackle ship in outer space. Your goal is to blast your way out of there with the help of advanced Spidertank machinery. You’ll quickly realize it’s not some epic, sweeping tale that will blow your mind. It’s a simple story that doesn’t drown you in world-building jargon, making the game readily accessible to anyone. And that is completely fine for a classic twin-stick shooter like this. The sheer kinetic energy of the 8 hour action campaign along with Roughshot’s hilarious monologues will be enough to keep you invested.
The game wastes no time catapulting you into chaos as you are expected from the first moments to engage in intense platforming shooter mechanics in the Spidertank. Your arsenal of guns will grow as you progress through the game and you will be granted power-ups along the way such as being able to take control of enemy turrets. Thankfully there are checkpoints scattered throughout because this game /will/ test and even break your resolve constantly if you allow it. Most enemies thrust at you only shave off a minuscule amount of health, but since they bombard you in hordes, even the tiniest careless mistake will be punished severely. RIVE’s charm is its blistering, vibrant demolition but admittedly there are points when it can go overboard.
To clarify, difficult games can be satisfying in their own unique way, but when the difficulty is more based on luck rather than skill, the overall gaming experience can quickly be soured. There were a considerable amount of occasions that I found myself clearing levels through sheer fortune rather than practiced precision. That isn’t to say the game isn’t overall enjoyable though, because it is. The core mechanics of moving and shooting have been polished to perfection and despite encountering areas where I felt the game tried to push the difficulty a tad too much, I was always willing to come back later and try again. The absurd difficulty spikes may result in frequent rage quits, but the pure adrenaline rush you get with each playthrough is addictive to say the least.
The Switch version of RIVE contains the perk to play in copilot mode, with each person taking control of a single Joy-Con. One is in charge of tank movement, while the other aims and fires the weaponry. This mode isn’t a gaming novelty or anything but it does offer the ability to multiply the mayhem with a friend. Personally I was just fine sticking to single-player mode because the co-op gimmick didn’t feel fleshed out all that well. It essentially felt the same as single-player mode, with each Joy-con being controlled by a separate person, and thus the gameplay didn’t feel as optimized as I would’ve liked. A more welcome feature in the Switch version however is HD Rumble: you can literally feel every detonation from your weapon, making the overall gaming experience more intense.
RIVE’s aesthetic presentation is strong on the Switch. The vibrant and colorful graphics do indeed provide necessary relief as you perish and replay each level over and over again. The environments are apparently completely 2D but they have a nice depth of field blur to them making them satisfyingly bounce out at you. The OST by Sonic Picnic is also praiseworthy as it accompanies the blood-pumping action to a tee.
RIVE: Ultimate Edition’s difficult gameplay may border on sadism sometimes, but if you’re up for the challenge, there’s a great deal to love here. Aesthetically it’s brilliant, and it offers an admirably polished and intense gaming experience that is best enjoyed in short bursts. For a reasonable price of $12.75, RIVE: Ultimate Edition overall is a solid twin-stick shooter that deserves to be in your Switch library.
Here is the RIVE: Ultimate Edition for Nintendo Switch Trailer:
RIVE: Ultimate Edition is now available in the Nintendo Switch eShop.