The Nintendo Switch has received a lot of love from indie developers, with many developers happy to port their titles over to the video game industry’s new hotness. The system definitely is not lacking in the shooters department, yet here we are with another indie shooter on the way. Rive: Ultimate Edition, however, has been streamlined by developer Two Tribes for the system and has been optimized for the Switch. There have been a number of additions and tweaks to the frenetic shooter and it is quite the experience indeed.
The story behind the game is kind of cute actually. You see, there’s a space pilot who goes by the name of Roughshot, who is running low on fuel, and happens upon an abandoned space station. He docks his ship and sends his little spider tank out to explore and search for fuel as well as assorted goodies like scraps and nuts and bolts. He encounters the ships AI bot who accompanies the tank through the levels, providing a bit of backstory and exposition on what is going on. It’s actually a pretty decent little story, with some funny bits of dialogue and interactions throughout the game.
The game is more or less a twin-stick shooter. You use the left stick to move and the right stick to shoot, in any direction. The face buttons are used for assorted powerups that you can purchase throughout the game, and for the most part, it works very well. The game is mostly a side-scroller, where you are moving your tank briskly through areas, and jumping and double-jumping all over the place; shooting at a wide assortment of enemies before they shoot you. The game also has spots where there is zero gravity, and the game feels a bit like Geometry Wars, as you can tightly move around with 360 degrees of movement, and are shooting in whatever direction enemies are coming at you from. Every level kind of has a rise and fall, ebb and flow of difficulty as it were. Sometimes you’ll be cruising along just shooting random robots, and the next thing you know there will be laser barriers closing in on you, backing you towards giant saw blades, while wave after wave of robots flies at you.
By the way, in case you hadn’t guessed it by now, you will die. A lot. Sometimes it will be just in random spots in levels, usually, it’s against bosses, but the game can be pretty unforgiving. As it is with most shooters though, once you learn patterns you can get through whatever has you stumped, but it can take a while sometimes. I should note that I sometimes had a harder time at random spots in levels than I did with some of the bosses, and I didn’t find many of the bosses to be that impressive. I guess I have been spoiled by other shooters, but while the bosses can be challenging, they just didn’t wow me like I would have liked.
As you play the game though, you will be fighting to get better and better scores, as the game does have leaderboards. So when you are done a level, you can see where you rank globally, or against your friends. You can even just choose to go back and replay specific levels to get that high score needed to beat your friend that just one-upped you. There are also 48 achievements in the game to earn, with a few more added since the release on PC and PS4. Another fun little mode is a survival mode, where you are trying to see how long you can survive against waves of enemies, again trying to get that top score. Two Tribes has also included a co-op mode for the Switch release. One player has a joy con controller and controls the tank, while the other player with the other joy con controls the gun, and if you die, then you swap roles. It can lead to some pretty hilarious couch co-op gaming sessions and is actually a blast to try and take on the levels with a friend.
Rive: Ultimate Edition has been optimized by Two Tribes for the Switch, and it does run really well, blasting at 60fps even in 1080p docked. However, the one issue I had was in playing the game in handheld mode, which is traditionally how I play my Switch games. Due to having to aggressively move both analog sticks, I found that my hands cramped up after about a half hour of playing in handheld. I play quite often in handheld mode and I don’t think that I’ve had a game make my hands cramp up as much as playing Rive: Ultimate Edition did. Playing docked with a controller is a lot better and more comfortable, I was just disappointed at how much it hurt to play the game after maybe a half hour session.
In the end, if you’re looking for a new mildly frustrating, but endearing twin-stick shooter for the Switch, then check out Rive. It can be frustrating, and at times it actually crippled my hands from playing, but it’s so satisfying when you finally clear an area or beat a boss. Sadly this is the last game that Two Tribes are making. They’ve had a good little run with some other adorable games like Toki Tori, and if this is to be their last game then it is a nice little swan song to go out on. Rive: Ultimate Edition is another great addition to the growing Switch library, and if you have the patience for it, you’ll be rewarded with a challenging but fun experience.
Rive: Ultimate Edition was reviewed with a digital copy provided by Two Tribes.