Earlier this year Two Tribes endured a restructuring process and re-formed its development company, in the process shrinking the team down to three, still including original founders Collin van Ginkel and Martijn Reuvers. Previously associated with the Toki Tori brand and its publishing business, the struggles of Toki Tori 2 and the consequences of its long development time proved too much to bear. With recalibration comes a new direction, however, and RIVE arrives with a dash of the Two Tribes we know so well, but also suggests a fresh, fast-paced approach from the streamlined team.
Teased throughout the year prior to its announcement and just recently confirmed as a definite arrival on Wii U, this is an action shooter that is full of colour, high-intensity action and — perhaps a shock to those used to the company's cerebral puzzle-based history — is punishingly difficult. It's quite a switch-up, but one that could scratch a noticeable itch on Wii U; there's minimal platforming and puzzle-solving here — you mainly just shoot stuff and enjoy the explosions.
Your robot begins as a scampering and rather damaged protagonist, rushing along the ground with the ability to double jump and shoot in the battle for survival. Controls immediately adopt a fairly comfortable setup, with the left stick responsible for movement and the right stick providing analogue aiming. Aside from picking up items all other abilities are assigned to shoulder buttons, with all four called upon in the short demo available.
While the right trigger (ZR) is unsurprisingly used for aiming, the first basic area of adjustment is to use the left trigger (ZL) for jumping. The double jump applies in the air and off walls, though for those particularly familiar with using face buttons for jumping it can take some adjustment. The design choice is sound, however, as the complexities that emerge necessitate keeping all functions close together for instinctive use.
The right shoulder button is used for limited-ammo secondary weapons, such as EMP bombs or homing missiles, but it's the left shoulder button's functionality that shows the most potential to allow RIVE to distinguish itself from rivals. With progress you find capsules that unlock hacks, and these can be used to take over or manipulate a variety of objects or enemy bots. In this case we hacked a door, a medical bot and a 'kamikaze' enemy that gives the temporary ability to fly. In each case in the demo there was guidance on what to hack, but the final product will hopefully do an interesting job of throwing up more dynamic, non-linear uses of the mechanic.
The overall impression is of an action shooter that includes enough fast paced platforming to serve up an interesting hybrid experience. This is backed up by encouraging early design, with the introductory level throwing up some pleasing transitions, including a dark section in which your aiming trajectory becomes a torch, along with an eye-catching lava-filled landscape. The early boss on show also points to some basic thought processes that'll need to be used in the heat of battle, as the large foe is lured low down for you to leap up and shoot down into its shield gap while double jumping; it's a tricky manoeuvre, but the controls are tight enough that it works well.
Finally, this initial build is sporting some attractive visuals, as Two Tribes utilises some of the tools and engine assets previously seen in Toki Tori 2. Flying enemies — in the form of orbs and deadly saws — look sharp, with satisfying particle effects for explosions. That is on a high end PC, admittedly, so we hope the team's efforts with the Wii U will recreate those effects as far as possible. Sound and music design has also started well, here, with some pulsing beats accompanying the action and changing across the distinct areas, constructing a solid vibe across the board.
RIVE is looking good so far, a positive first title for the reborn Two Tribes. It portrays a shift in dynamic for the studio; here is a fun, fast-paced title that aims for thrills to suit those up for a challenge, with enough running, jumping and proposed variation — such as all-out shooter levels yet to be seen — that prioritise action above all else. You shoot, enemies explode, and particle effects fill the screen; it's simple, but could be very effective.
Be sure to check back later this week for our follow-up EGX interview with Two Tribes.