Rive Review: Bringing the Side Scrolling Shooter Back To Life

Posted September 19, 2016 by Spencer Birch in Video Games


Developed by: Two Tribes 

Published by: Two Tribes

Release Date: September 13, 2016

Available on: PS4 (reviewed), Steam

Videogames have a very long and rich history with regards to shooters. Looking back to the late 70’s at Space Invaders, it’s almost astonishing to see how far we have come. This wildly popular genre has helped to pave the way for games to evolve from being a free standing, multi thousand dollar cabinet containing one title, to just one of a dozen others all stored on your console’s internal hard drive. So when I first booted up Rive and saw that I was about to jump into a side-scrolling shooter, I was admittedly apprehensive. After all, the shooter isn’t necessarily a genre that has been making advances in recent years. I think the last one really worth mentioning would be Gradius Rebirth from 2008, though this is essentially a remake of the 1985 original! In short, Rive has a great pedigree to live up to, and I think that it does a pretty great job.

Coming all the way from The Netherlands, developer Two Tribes has been around for some time, and they definitely know how to make games. Having worked on titles such as Toki Tori and Edge, Two Tribes felt they were ready to take on the task of making a game to stand alongside such greats like R-Type and Parodius. Since 2005 (it began life as a DS game!) they have been developing Rive, bringing it through countless iterations until it finally emerged on September 13 as the game you have now. Rive is built on the Toki Tori 2+ engine but with all new gameplay and a completely different feel. They set out to make something that appeals to more dedicated players and the result really is excellent.

In Rive you play as Roughshot, the pilot of a lost salvage vessel. You begin by awakening on a strange ship and are overcome with the urge to explore, constantly testing your luck in hopes of finding more loot. The ship that you control in game is essentially a metal, all-terrain spider with a large machine gun capable of 360 degree shooting. This is your main source of firepower, with auxiliary modes of destruction coming in the form of powers gained by collecting bolts dropped by your fallen enemies. At the end of each stage you have the chance to exchange your bolts for one of 5 power ups ranging from a barrage of homing missiles to more hefty armor for your spider tank. Powering up is completely optional, though I would highly suggest it, as this game is no walk in the park. In fact for your first playthrough you are forced to take on hard mode, unlocking easy mode as a completion bonus!

At every chance possible Roughshot will chime in from within his iron spider to comment on the goings on around him. The voice acting is good for all characters involved, but after some time playing, Roughshot’s snide, space Brooklyn accent and dry quips began to wear me down. Luckily there isn’t too much story to speak of. Two Tribes has clearly focused more on gameplay than narrative and it really pays off. At some point during each level the supposed antagonist flies in to, well, antagonize you and advance the plot. If you don’t care to listen, you can simply shoot him out of the sky! This is a really fun way for the game to “skip the cutscenes” if you know what I mean.


What Rive may skip out on in story, it certainly makes up for with design. I use design broadly because I am trying to refer to every aspect of the experience. The level layout is completely linear, but it compliments your moves and abilities perfectly, always making traversal a fun challenge. The background design and colors are fantastic as well, always subtly changing to match the action on screen, but never so much to be disorienting or seem out of place. Both of these things are complemented so well by the music and sound design. The game has a sort of industrial/electronic soundtrack which I really enjoyed throughout. It seamlessly switched things up between sequences and rooms so it never got repetitive. The sound design is excellent as well, and I would really recommend playing this game with headphones on. Not only do you get to feel more immersed in the game world, but the (subjectively) better stereo field really saved my bacon a few times, giving a split second heads up as to which way the enemy was about to attack from before he came on screen.


As with many games of this genre the control scheme is not overly complicated. You have one stick to move about, a button to jump, and an attack and special attack. Rive also throws in a hacking feature, a really fun system where you can take control over enemy robots and have them work on your side. From a nurse bot which restores your health all the way to a freight train to ride on as you crash through the stage, the hacking is well utilized and almost necessary in some spots. Despite having so few buttons in use, the control layout of the game is a bit odd. This review is based on the PS4 version, and I will admit that neither of the two preset schemes really appealed to me at first. They are both decidedly out of the ordinary, but I think this is very intentional. Two Tribes clearly doesn’t want you to start your playthrough feeling comfortable, but wants you to re-learn how to control a game like this as you go along. This helps to make Rive feel different from other games in the genre and I grew to really like the setup.

I think that Rive is a shooter that is able to stand in line with some of the greats. It may ruffle some feathers to say this, but modern improvements in technology and game design really help to pull Rive up to being just as enjoyable of an experience as some of the older more legendary shooters that is clearly adores. Great level and sound design, beautiful visuals and non stop action make this short but fun game a joy to play. Rive is absolutely not an easy game, but zero load times and almost no sequences without action really help to garner that feeling of “just one more try”. I would really recommend checking out this game, it’s one of the better indie shooters released in recent memory.


You can find out more about Rive at http://www.rivethegame.com and on twitter at @twotribesgames

You should also check out the soundtrack by Sonic Picnic at https://sonicpicnic.bandcamp.com/album/rive-ost


Rive is currently available for PS4 and Steam (PC, Mac, Linux) and is slated for Xbox One and Wii U at a later date.

About the Author

Spencer Birch

I dislike long walks on the beach actually, sand gets everywhere and the sun makes it hard to see my screen. Follow me on twitter at http://twitter.com/spencermbirch