Satisfaction. That is the main reason I play games. The flow of a perfectly tuned combat system. The elation of solving a perplexing puzzle. The grip of a masterfully told story. Every aspect of Cococucumber’s shoot-and-slash dungeon crawler seems solely designed to bring satisfaction and joy to players. Simply put, Riverbond scratches an itch.
The game’s vibrant, charming voxel art style is its most immediate draw; somewhere between 3D Dot Game Heroes and Minecraft, Riverbond carves out its own distinct aesthetic. Each world is a handcrafted, fully destructible little diorama, teaming with personality, life and secrets to uncover. Playful art design ensures environments and enemies alike are varied, with Minotaurs, piglets and sword-wielding land fish populating boggy swamps, arid deserts and snow-capped mountain passes.
Riverbond’s 8 worlds, all playable in up to 4 player drop-in, drop-out couch co-op, each consist of a handful of themed levels that culminate in a thrilling boss fight. Lastly roughly 30 minutes each, these worlds feel perfectly paced but overall leave the somewhat lacking in content. Completing a level’s objective, whether that be finding an item, collecting X number of objects or clearing all enemies, allows you to progress. While quest design is hardly inspired, simply giving a checkbox to tick off, every objective is satisfyingly methodical. However, combat is where the real gratification comes.
Chests, generously strewn throughout levels, contain new weapons and character skins. A huge variety of swords, guns, clubs, spears, dual weapons, and slap weapons constantly reward you with new ways to wail on enemies and destroy the environment, shattering both into bursts of physics-affected cubes. Every weapon has its own feel, yet all are responsive and have a satisfying weight to them. Causing chaos is made all the more fun with co-op companions, difficulty is scaled, and the hectic on-screen action is amplified.
While grunts are easily disposed of, tougher enemies and bosses provide more of a challenge. Bosses embody the game’s whimsical humour and personality with the likes of boxing penguins, gluttonous frogs and mech-piloting rabbits making up the roster. These battles also show a more tactical side to combat, demanding a more considered approach. While hardly a Soulslike, Riverbond balances accessibility and challenge perfectly for players of all ages.
Almost every action earns you points towards your final score for the world, so slaying every enemy, destroying every obstacle and unlocking every chest is encouraged. Adding extra incentive, character skins, from adorable sushi rolls and donuts to cameos from the likes of Guacamelee’s Juan and Psychonauts’ Raz, are unlockable. With hidden areas and dozens of pop culture references and easter eggs scattered throughout each level, the game really beckons you to discover all it has to offer. This completionist mentality is further fuelled by a compulsive trophy list; collect every item, use every weapon, speak with every NPC and defeat every boss and you’ll easily bag the platinum.
While it doesn’t provide the deepest or most substantial experience, Riverbond delivers exactly what it intends to with substance and style and as such is an absolute joy. Charming art design, a playful personality, satisfying combat and a compulsive, consistently rewarding flow to gameplay make every minute spent adventuring, solo or with friends, pure fun.
Riverbond PS4 Review
Overall - Fantastic - 8/10
Riverbond is a joy to play. This brief adventure through a charming voxel art world is consistently rewarding thanks to satisfying combat, tonnes of unlockables and the inclusion of couch coop.
- Delightful art style and plenty of charm.
- Satisfying combat
- A compulsive gameplay loop perfect for completionists.
- Couch coop.
- At around 4-5 hours, it lacks longevity or replayibility.
Reviewed using PS4 Pro.
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