(Two Tribes for PS4)
By Mike Delano
RIVE is a frantic, fast-paced shoot-em-up/platformer that draws from a ton of great source material from the history of white-knuckle action games. It makes its M.O. clear from the beginning by only allowing you to select Hard Mode at the start, so you’re forced to accept the game’s heart-racing intensity — no easy way outs here. Before long you’re knee-deep in a bullet frenzy as you guide a nimble little Metal Slug-style tank through scrap heaps, pipework and spewing magma as you confront all manner of mechanical monstrosities on a mysterious starship. The game name-checks shmup classics like Blazing Lazers and Parodius — and its speedy, responsive gameplay definitely earns those comparisons — but honestly, that is modest company for a game as good as this. RIVE aspires to, and can stand beside, the greats of the Treasure canon, from Gunstar Heroes to Radiant Silvergun. The reason? It doesn’t just emulate the classics, it feeds off them to create something new and bursting with creativity. One minute you’re running and gunning straight out of Contra, and the next you’re in a gravity bubble that transforms gameplay into a Geometry Wars-style twin stick shooter. Developer Two Tribes doesn’t just take inspiration from the oldies, either: you’ll desperately try to survive Super Meat Boy-style platforming gauntlets, and in every level you’re sucking up satisfying loot in the form of nuts and bolts in the true Ratchet & Clank tradition. The fact that all of these moving parts fit together so seamlessly is a testament to the talent of the creators, so it’s a real bummer that Two Tribes announced this will be their final game after 15+ years as a studio. RIVE couldn’t be a more perfect swansong — it keeps the Treasure dream alive and will hopefully inspire the next generation to carry on the torch of true hardcore gaming.