I’m the first person to admit they don’t like hard games. I’m a “Very Easy” kinda guy. Sometimes I get comfortable and play on normal, but that’s only if I’ve previously beaten the game. If a game is too hard I’ll just give up on it. Rive is a game that leaves me confused, questioning myself on the person I am and what I stand for. Rive can be a hard game. Sometimes it can be downright cruel — But I found myself coming back to it. Just not for the right reasons.
You take on the role of Roughshod. Roughshod is a regular kinda guy. A working-class man gettin’ in there and giving it his best, day in, day out. He ends up stuck inside a space station/spacecraft place that’s filled to the brim with tonnes of robots that want to see your his very own transport blown up into nothing but a smouldering pile of scrap metal. And whatever is left of Roughshod’s carcass.
At first, the game feels a little bit like a Metroid Lite. Navigating through a maze in space, earning power-ups as you go. These are fairly limited though and don’t really feel like a necessity, mostly serving extra defence or a stronger magnet to for pick-ups. Certainly not anything that will help you greatly in facing giant waves of enemies and one-hit kill traps. Sometimes the game relies on twitch movements and memorising patterns and waves of enemies. Thankfully the game checkpoints often enough, so in most circumstances, when you’ve done it once, you don’t have to do it again.
This is where I started to question myself. I hate a hard game, but I knew if I could just get past that next section, I can keep pushing through to the next stage. At times I literally hated the game. I called it a piece of poop that smells bad. Well, I called it that in adult language. Something I appreciate in games is the “AH-HA!” moment or a feeling of satisfaction for completing a challenging task. Too often Rive made me feel a sense of “Thank the omnipresent, omnipotent hell beast that created this, that I am finally done with that task!”
The best parts of Rive where the times when gameplay was challenging, but not in the sense of being hard for the sake of being hard. There are times and stages where the game mixes it up a bit, changing the gameplay mechanics just for that part. Unfortunately, these were few and far between.
As mentioned before with the power-ups being mostly pointless, there’s no real feeling of progression. Just a sense of going from one stage to another, which is fine, I just feel that some better progression would lend itself well to the gameplay. There are a few different special attacks that you earn, but they just end up being weapons effective against a few waves of enemies, where you have to use it, try and collect ammo then repeat, as opposed to something that feels like a necessity.
While it looks nice, Rive lacks any real standout personality. There’s a basic story, which I didn’t actually pay attention to because I blew up the robot that appears at the start to tell you what’s going on. The attempts at humour are there, but mostly just that – attempts. I admit there were a few chuckles but nothing that I can actively recall. Rive’s art style and the care taken in crafting the environments are certainly the standout features. Enemy design is good but minimal and at times basic. A few more enemy types would have been nice, rather than giant swarms of the same.
If you’re a sucker for side-scrolling shooters with a penchant for a difficulty level that fluctuates between clever and fun to sadistically relying on twitch control and memorisation, Rive: Ultimate Edition might be a game to keep you busy for the 6-8 hours it provides.
Rating 3 / 5