Oh my, aren’t rogue-like dungeons so dreary? In an effort to be more blood-spattered than the previous offering, it seems all top-down dungeon crawlers want to do is beat us relentlessly with the intestines of a bad guy called something like ‘The Painbeast’ or ‘Ribcrusher’. Diablo III’s lighting, while atmospheric, didn’t exactly create levels easy to navigate when the sun’s reflecting off your screen, did it? To make it even more indie, let’s drop the fidelity so that we embrace the low-fi 3D blocky feel that pissed off everyone once we’d gotten Minecraft out of our system. It’s also a co-op multiplayer game, but considering all my friends emigrated to Belize when I suggested we actually interact with each other, it’s down to me to save this happy little pixelated world. This is our Riverbond review for PC.
So, why the hell do I like Riverbond so much?
The premise is fairly basic. There’s a bad guy who’s been creating all kinds of the hassle that needs a good butt whoopin’. Your character which can be generously described as looking like Bomberman if he used a massive lollypop for a weapon, is the one to ride the pain train through eight unique environments towards the final boss and save the world from whatever it is he’s supposed to be doing. Along the way you’ll fight Angry Birds, get a quest from a bear who’s happy chilling out in a pond, attack pirate ships, slip and slide across icy tundra to finally face off against the big bad guy in the final level, Ash Fortress.
The campaigns are split down into four or five separate maps, and then a final boss at the end. Each map will have you doing something relatively inane while fighting off hordes of variously themed bad guys. It’s a shame that the second campaign’s enemies paled in comparison to the first’s; the bee dogs and crabs were a welcome mix amongst the evil chickens compared to the constant slaughter of pigs in the second campaign. That said, the spider cave did liven things up and the variety of the enemies certainly does shakeup in later levels. Riverbond’s bestiary is a colorful mix of cannon fodder and tricky little bastards that lull you into a false sense of security and before you know it, they’re gnawing your tasty kneecaps off.
Once you throw in charging enemies and turrets that fire out balls of hurt, things get surprisingly chaotic in Riverbond. Each campaign takes anywhere between thirty minutes and an hour, depending on a) your skill and b) how much loot you want to scour the map for.
That’s right, not only does Riverbond look like your favorite games from yesteryear, it sure as hell plays like one. Name a classic Nintendo game and there’s a game mechanic shamelessly ripped from any Mario or Zelda title. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Riverbond is one of the tongue in cheek, family-friendly, silly puns scenarios and having the classic Nintendo vibe does it a great deal of service. Searching for hidden chests could get you health potions, a unique weapon (I spent a good twenty minutes smooshing enemies with giant bear paws), or cosmetic skin for your weird little character. In fact, Riverbond almost makes a point of you figuring out that you have to go and find these chests. The weapons that you collect are far more powerful than your starting sword and if you want to have a chance at beating the game you’ll need to get a handy set of tools to finish the job. It’s kind of annoying that your inventory is emptied at the end of every mission, but it’s really not that big of a deal as you’re swinging something crackers like the Skull On A Bone three minutes into the next campaign.
The one place where Riverbond falls a bit flat is that it can get a bit stale if you’re the kind of gamer that will sit down and blast out an indie game a night. While each level has its share of colorful creatures, creepy caves, and cadaverous creations, it can all blend together a little and in the more straight forward hack n’ slash parts, it gets very repetitive and no amount of cutesy Animals Of Farthing Wood NPCs can make that any less so.