Working Dawgs: Rivet Retriever is a platformer doomed to be forgotten. An uninspired follow-up to puzzle game Working Dawgs: A-maze-ing Pipes, every facet of this downloadable title succumbs to the dark side of video games, thoroughly beating down what simple enjoyment might be found in a side-scroller this basic. If the underlying gameplay functioned on an acceptable level, some of these troubles might be overlooked; but it doesn’t and they aren’t. Dogs in yellow construction hats should be kind of delightful, but as it turns out, absolutely nothing could be further from the truth.
You take control of a maniacally grinning dog named Ace, whose sole purpose in life is to retrieve rivets. The story begins and ends here, but considering the unlikable nature of these generic canines, that’s probably for the best. Instead, it’s time to get down to business: collecting dozens of mechanical fastening devices. Ace haphazardly leaps atop bright red construction beams as he scoops up the glowing objects en masse and carts them off to the level’s end, avoiding a smattering of poorly-placed obstacles as he goes. Enemies can be batted away with a quick tap of the B button, but dashing headlong into harm’s way will scatter your precious rivets like so many of Sonic the Hedgehog’s gold rings. This often means diving off the construction beam to gather lost cargo before it disappears for good, not only forcing you to retread old ground, but making the ever-present time limit an even greater hassle. This cycle of vapid gameplay is Rivet Retriever in its entirety.
The ugly environment never changes, your objective never grows in complexity, and the incessantly loopy music never lets up. The rivet count just keeps on climbing as Ace keeps on grinning his frightening, soulless grin. With monotony of this magnitude, supporting any kind of fun factor rests squarely on the shoulders of the gameplay; unfortunately, this element is crippled and promptly folds under its weight. The simple motion of jumping — a core mechanic of most self-respecting platformers — is unwieldy, forcing you to spend time fiddling with inconsequential hops as the timer ticks. Overly sensitive momentum often requires you to inch your way up boxes or take a leap of faith and fling yourself across huge gaps, resulting in many a cheap hit. The camera tries to give you a better perspective by drunkenly swinging forward whenever you take a step, but this serves to hinder rather than help. A rhythm of proper timing can be found given enough trial and error, but overcoming the controls is never rewarding; just relieving.
Slapdash level design only compounds the problem. Just open-ended enough to be confusing, mazes of interlocking metal beams hide all manner of dead-ends unfair enemy placement. The worst offenders are the wooden barrels that — like Mario’s nemesis in the original Donkey Kong — roll onward at a relentless pace. Unfortunately, predicting when the projectiles will leap from the unknown and knock you silly is all but impossible, especially when verticality is involved. This institutes level memorization as a necessary tool without any of the strategic benefits, sapping what little joy there is to exploration. Although uncovering an out-of-the-way corner filled with steel treasure can be satisfying, finding yourself at the end with no way of nabbing that last rivet in time certainly isn’t.
The game’s twenty-four levels won’t take more than a few hours to slog through, but you’ll feel every minute of it. A bare-bones map screen and mercifully forgettable music are all you’ll have to keep you sane outside of levels, both of which are flat and lifeless. The construction yard’s polygonal visuals are serviceable at best, what with bland objects jerked about via choppy animation, managing only to be decently colourful. The character design fares no better, resembling the rejected prototype of an off-brand breakfast cereal mascot. When you finally do retrieve the very last rivet, your canine construction pal runs through his usual spiel about moving onto the next site before belatedly suggesting that you deserve a vacation for your efforts, followed by a dump to the map screen. The only fulfilment attainable by completing the game is knowing in your heart that it’s all over.
All of this contributes to a deep, existential question: Who is Rivet Retriever for? Its ambition to entertain as a kid-friendly platformer stumbles at every turn, devoid of creativity and competence in every possible area. The idea of bunch of cartoon dogs building stuff at a construction site may amuse a young child here or there, but this erratic side-scroller will frustrate and bore almost immediately; as for adults, they’ll see through the lazy design even faster. This leaves Rivet Retriever, a painfully approachable concept in theory, with an audience of nobody. So try out some demos from the Nintendo eShop; download any number of free games on your phone of choice; maybe take your corgi for a walk and remember what it’s like to breath fresh air. Whatever you do, don’t waste your life playing Working Dawgs: Rivet Retriever.