Though Two Tribes' Rive shoot for white-knuckle action, my brief demo amounted to a slightly bittersweet experience.
Without me even asking, the developers on hand weren't shy about being candid on the topic of indie development. Their previous game, Toki Tori 2, didn't quite gain the attention they thought it would. So, instead of taking the form of a sprawling metroidvania experience, Two Tribes final project feels like it's half twin-stick shooter, half Blaster Master.
In terms of premise, Rive wants to keep things simple: If something looks like it's worth blowing up, point the right analog stick at it and well—there-you-go. While most of my demo consisted of steering Rive's hefty tank through some linear levels, Two Tribes takes advantage of the relatively straightforward gameplay to throw some interesting set pieces in your path. And your tank isn't limited to land, either: The intro to my first level had me hurtling through a meteor storm, and played out more like a thoroughly modernized version of Asteroids. Later, an underwater section completely removed my offensive capabilities, leaving me with no choice but to carefully steer my tank around dangerous obstacles.
Even though my time with the game barely lasted more than 15 minutes, the variety of different concepts Two Tribes spun from a very basic concept managed to surprise me. One section with some particularly tricky platforming (involving conveyor belts) made me immediately retrace my steps while dodging a series of sweeping lasers. Another small section had me jumping between two elevated platforms, using the trains barreling down them as makeshift platforms that could potentially kill me. Even though its levels don't offer any room for exploration, Rive operates on a constant sense of surprise that more than makes up for this omission—and luckily, Two Tribes isn't stingy about letting you respawn almost immediately after exploding. (Something that happened to me a lot.)
The downside of writing about a game like Rive is that it's easy to undersell its straightforward means of expression. Granted, it might not operate on a concept as unique as Toki Tori's, but Rive definitely makes the most of its simple setup. It's always sad to see a developer go, but in this case, Two Tribes seems like it's going out on a high note. Look forward to more coverage of Rive on USgamer as we come closer to its September release date.