By Dalton McClain / January 1st, 2020
|Release Date||December 10th, 2019|
|Genre||Hack and Slash|
|Platform||PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC|
Riverbond is a hack and slash…sorry, “shoot and slash” game from Cococucumber. We previously covered the title at PAX West here, but it’s finally time for us to fully dive into it. You play as the titular hero, as he goes on a quest to find out what happened to the Eldra, a group of spirits that watches over the lands. Will this be an epic quest for the ages, or another trot along the same old path?
Starting with how it looks, Riverbond is a voxel style game. This means that it is made up entirely of pixels in a 3D environment, giving the whole game a retro aesthetic. I think the art itself looks fantastic. The enemies are varied, and the environments are very distinct. The characters you can choose from as well are all adorable. You can be anything from a slice of bacon, to some of your favorite indie characters, to even some YouTubers such as Shubble. It’s very pleasing to look at, to say the least.
The soundtrack, as well, is very good. Though I’d have enjoyed more diversity (Synth isn’t my style.), I can’t really fault it too hard. It’s a fine enough music selection to set the atmosphere, but nothing to really write home about. The actual sound design itself could use a little work. While satisfying at first, you quickly start to notice how the same sound effect is used time and again. In some cases I can understand this, but for example, both the dual sais I used, as well as the brass knuckles, had the exact same sound effects. Though to be fair, they’re both nearly identical in terms of usability. It’s a shame considering that so many of the weapons look so cool and unique. My personal favorites were the boxing gloves, as it’s just satisfying to deck a boss in the face.
Most of the enemies had really cool/cute designs, but they all were basically the same, and none felt different to fight. The bosses did have different patterns, but they all hit way too hard to get close to. All of the fights eventually boiled down to “run back, shoot a little, and keep running back.” You’d do that about two to three times, then the boss would die. There is a neat mechanic where they’ll go down after taking enough damage. They’ll start taking massive damage when they go down, but all of the other enemies in the boss room respawn as well. This makes it almost pointless to attack the boss, as the smaller enemies are the biggest trouble in the whole fight anyway. Even if you die you keep the progress you made, so it almost takes away from the whole boss fight. It feels like as soon as the charm started to fade a bit, the big issues in Riverbond made their way to the forefront. And boy, were there some noticeable issues.
At its core, Riverbond is a shoot-and-slash game that’s meant for co-op. You can technically get through it single player like I did, but I wouldn’t recommend it at all. Let me explain. At the start of the game you can choose any order that you want to beat the levels. This is very similar to Mega Man, however if you’re playing this for the story, it’ll end up getting very confusing very fast. Enemies will hit you way harder, and the story will only give you the last parts. This would be fine, if it weren’t for the fact that it never gets any easier. You go through various stages of the level you pick, doing various activities such as killing all the enemies or collecting things until you get to the last boss. After the boss of the stage ends, you’re stripped of your weapons and you never get any sort of other upgrades. So towards the end of the game, things will be swarming you and one-shotting you left and right. It’s not that bad, since death doesn’t do anything apart from send you back to the last checkpoint, but it’s more tedious than anything.
And that’s my biggest problem with this game: how tedious it is. You go through level after level and stage after stage, doing the same things over and over again. It doesn’t even feel rewarding towards the end, just a relief that the level is over. I really hate saying that, because this game had a lot of promise and is very pretty looking, especially for someone like me who loves that art style. I just wish there were a little more depth to the game, because as it is right now it’s very boring to sit through a lot of the time. I didn’t even mention the story that much because it’s very simple and takes a backseat to a lot of the game. For a simple pick-up-and-play game, I suppose it’s fine and serves the purpose of an arcade game well enough. But I don’t think it’s all that worth it, especially at the $24.99 price range where it sits right now. All in all I got about five hours out of the game, but I really wouldn’t recommend it unless you really love this kind of thing, or you need something simple and fun to play with friends.
Review copy provided by the publisher.