RIVE, while originally planned for release on the Wii U, has finally come to a Nintendo console as RIVE: Ultimate Edition. Let’s see how it stacks up!

I’ll be honest–I’ve been waiting to play RIVE for quite some time now. If our readers remember, it was actually the cover of Issue 19 of Pure Nintendo Magazine way back in 2014. While the game is incredibly polished and runs buttery-smooth on the Switch, it’s difficulty might be a hindrance to some. The game features full voice acting for the game’s main character and the robot on the space station. The dialogue is fun at times but the story is really just a means to introduce new areas.

The gameplay in RIVE is a mix of platformer and twin-stick shooter/shmup (shoot ‘em up) which uses both analog sticks–the left being for movement while the right stick fires and aims simultaneously. There’s a bit of a learning curve to the controls but the game eases you in–at least for the first 30-60 minutes of the game. After that, the difficulty spikes quite a bit. There were several areas where I was dying 5-6 times in nearly identical spots. There is a ‘Soft Mode’ (easy mode) but I never encountered it. It’s supposed to prompt the player for the Soft Mode if they die in quick succession. I probably didn’t reach the threshold and it saw I was making at least some forward progress.

The levels had some fun designs early on but it was hit-or-miss later in the game. It would get so hectic at times that I would often lose track of where I was going. There are some areas where players will find upgrades to their spider tank, but these were rare occurrences. Most of the time I would complete a mission and there was very little payoff, especially for the amount of trouble some of the rooms gave me. I was also bummed about the enemy variety. It seemed to be a pretty simple lineup of enemies throughout the game with not a whole lot of variation. There are some boss battles which were pretty fun, but again, there wasn’t much of a reward for vanquishing them.

I was eager to try the multiplayer co-op mode but was disappointed that it is a simple ‘co-pilot mode’. Instead of having two spider tanks, one player controls movement while the other controls aiming/shooting. This isn’t a problem on its own but the biggest issue is that the game swaps the players’ roles after each death. Katelyn and I were in a particularly difficult section in Mission 4 and we couldn’t make any forward progress because we couldn’t get used to the controls before we died. After each death, the game swaps you, and we were re-learning again. We did this til we died maybe 10 more times with no forward progress and had to put the game down. We could’ve kept swapping controllers so we could keep doing the same task after each death, but that’s very cumbersome. It seems like there should be an option to not switch after each death. While it’s certainly not the main draw, the multiplayer co-pilot mode ended up being more frustrating than anything.

Overall, I don’t know if I can fully recommend RIVE. I would say the first hour of the game is really something special, but after that, it simply doesn’t give much incentive to pick up the controller again, which is a shame because the game’s visuals and framerate are excellent throughout. If you’re a fan of twin-stick shooters, RIVE is certainly a unique game that starts off with some promise. However, the drive to keep playing the game decreased with each mission.