Rive: What’s got four legs, no story and infinite ammo? No, not Bambi 2: The Reckoning

Before you’ve seen a title screen, before you’re taught the controls and well before you begin to understand the startling number of ideas you’re about to come across, Rive’s demo shows a spider-tank bursting out of an exploding wall. This says more or less everything we need to. It’s confident, spectacular, fast and brash everything Rive turns out to be once you get over that initial shock and start to find out what the hell is going on.

As far as early looks go, we can’t remember many better. In its first game since downsizing to a three-person studio, Two Tribes has taken two familiar (and often unremarkable) genres in the 2D platformer and twin-stick shooter, jammed them together then surgically attached as many shiny new pieces as possible.

Game of two halves
Your controller setup reflects how simple this hybrid idea is at its core. The left half contains your platforming controls movement and jumps the right, your shooter necessities aiming and blasting. You’ll face challenges that suit both learning to perfectly double-jump moving obstacles or spin your cannon around to hit one set of robotic enemies as you eject EMP missiles to immobilise the crowd on your blind side.
The game introduces new ideas roughly every 30 seconds
Speed is everything, not least when the game combines the two disciplines. Your avatar moves at a mighty clip, tearing past cartoonishly overwrought techno-scenery, weaponry tearing through hordes of enemies, while the game introduces new ideas roughly every 30 seconds.

At its best, you move from hacking passing healing robots to a combined lava-chase/mass brawl, to a darkened room lit only by your tiny torch beam and tracer fire, ending in a brief, frenzied boss fight. It’s calibrated not just for spectacle, but for score attack we’re fairly sure you could keep a score multiplier building throughout the entirety of the demo. Gaining abilities and equipment throughout the demo from  secondary weapons to target-specific hacking protocols there’s a sense of pleasingly modular progression. It could manifest in a Metroidvania set of unlocks, but we’re expecting something more shooter-specific, power-ups for power-ups’ sake.

There are so many elements at work by the end that we’re left dreaming about how they’ll be implemented. A final section reveals that hacking flying ’bots has them emit an anti-grav field whether that’ll be used for exploration puzzling, 360º shoot-’em-up sections or both is just one of many questions we’re left with. Frankly, why else do you blow open a wall, other than to see what’s on the other side? Rive’s left us devastatingly curious, and we won’t be sated until we’ve ruined all the masonry it has to offer.

Depth charge
Rive’s appeal is as much about the little things as it is the big picture
Speed is everything to Rive, but slow down and you notice the details. Shielded enemies drop their defences as a power-up the more you damage it before they die, the less useful it is to you. Getting hit fills your screen with neon scrapes, making multipliers harder to keep up with. Hacking an enemy slows the world down, letting you switch direction in mid-air. We can imagine score-chasers finding obsession here.

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