Fancy bashing up some baddies across a bunch of colourful levels with a slab of ham, all whilst playing as a watermelon? Yeah, it might sound a little zany, but it’s possible in Riverbond – the charming little dungeon-crawler from the team at Cococucumber that’s just made its way to the Nintendo Switch.
Riverbond is a dungeon-crawler at its core, though it’s one that’s spread across a variety of vibrant voxel levels that players can tackle in any order they like. The gameplay loop is simple: you beat up some baddies, complete objectives, move through the level, and then take on a boss battle to assert your dominance. The combat mechanics are also pretty straight-forward, with very little to think about outside of mashing the attack button to either hit foes from up-close or at range – they don’t really offer much threat to your well-being either, with most busting up into voxely remains with little effort from the player.
It makes for a very easy-going experience that won’t really test your skills all that much, but still proves to be fun to play. It probably doesn’t help that the stakes in-game aren’t that high mind, with death simply seeing you respawn back into the action with very little in the way of consequence. It’s definitely one of the easier dungeon crawlers I’ve played, though it does make it more accessible and ideal for younger gamers to play through.
Unfortunately, this easy-going nature does see Riverbond lacking in variety, with the simple objectives typically requiring you to just beat up enemies, gather items, rescue NPCs, or destroy the nests of enemies – these sort of objectives are repeated across all nine levels too, so there aren’t many differences to be found between them outside of their aesthetic. The enemies themselves all generally feel the same too, whilst the weapons you can unlock (of which there are many) offer very little difference to what you’ve already got outside of their appearances. The only real variety came with the boss battles, with each bringing different attacks to the table that you’ve got to figure out if you’re going to overcome them – they’re not particularly gruelling encounters, but it certainly is fun to take on the likes of a pirate fish, a boxing penguin, and a giant frog, so I won’t complain too much.
Whilst the lack of variety doesn’t stop Riverbond from being fun to play, it does make it hard to come back to once you’ve cleared all of the levels. You can go through levels again and try and get high scores, but with no online leaderboards to compete with others I didn’t really see the point. There are plenty of different costumes to unlock too, some of which are cameos from other video games or silly inanimate objects, but these only offer an aesthetic change so there wasn’t a lot to motivate me to hunt them down either.
I will give some praise to the multiplayer though, with Riverbond’s co-op proving to be a lot of fun when played with friends. The aforementioned simple nature of the game made it perfect to play with others – I actually went through the game with my younger niece and nephew, and it was a blast. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t offer the sort of multiplayer experience you’ll find yourself invested in for the long-term, but if you want something quick and easy to play it’s perfect.
Riverbond is a simple yet pleasant dungeon-crawling experience, but it doesn’t offer enough excitement or variety with its gameplay to really keep players hooked in for the long-term.
There’s a decent selection of stages on offer that span across some vibrant locales, but with each offering the same rinse-and-repeat combat and very little variety in their objectives, you’ll soon realise you’re doing a lot of the same things over and over again. The unlockables only offer an aesthetic change too, so it’s not like working to get all of the costumes spices up the gameplay that much either.
Riverbond definitely isn’t a bad game though and I did have some fun whilst playing – especially in the co-op where the action can get pretty chaotic. There’s just not enough variety or excitement on offer in its gameplay to make it recommendable over the better titles in the genre.
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC