Cococumber has released the voxel adventure Riverbond on Nintendo Switch, and it’s a match made in heaven. After getting hands-on with Riverbond at PAX West, I was eager to explore more and see if my excitement was justified.
Set in a voxel world, this shoot and slash dungeon crawler takes place through eight stages, each with their objectives and bosses, which players must fight. You can go at it alone or join up with four friends via couch co-op as you travel through themed lands freeing the people of Riverbond, collecting coins, weapons, and various skins you can equip on your journey.
The world of Riverbond is a colorful place, and it stands out as one of the most impressive games on the Switch. Each stage has a theme and is capitalized by its breathtaking landscape and enemies that inhabit the region. On more than one occasion, I found myself stopping to admire the environments, a sure sign that a game has nailed its art style.
The voxel art reminded me of another game with a similar style, 3D Dot Game Heroes. Riverbond, however, has taken the voxel style and perfected it. I always found something I enjoyed with each world.
Whacky Weapons and Skins
Weapons in Riverbond are just as unique as the voxel graphics. You can have up to five weapons at a time, which can be switched out for another with a press of a button. Depending on your play style, you can have melee or ranged weapons. You can go with conventional weapons like swords, axes, shotguns, and crossbows, but the more unconventional weapons are really where the fun comes in to play. Smacking someone with a fish, a hand, or dropping some knowledge on your enemies with a giant book is very satisfying. I was a big fan of the bubble gun and, my personal favorite was the Bee Blaster.
Besides wacky weapons, the different skins you can pick from at the start of each level are unique, as well. You may even recognize characters from other indie games like Bastion, Shovel Knight, and Psychonauts. You will find these weapons and skins scattered throughout each level hidden in chests. This method of obtaining items helps to drive the desire to explore each of the beautiful stages. If you don’t take a look around, you have no idea what fun crazy loot you might be missing out on.
Couch Co-Op and Controls
In a world of online play, Riverbond takes a step back and only offers couch co-op. This may not be ideal for people who prefer to play online games, but I think something is charming about a game willing to brush off modern-day multiplayer to return to the roots of co-op. Luckily for me, I always have two extra gamers in my house who are down to play. In that way, Riverbond is a wonderful opportunity for me to game with my kids.
The only downside to Riverbond is how all the levels share the same gameplay loop. You’re given an objective or quest to complete while collecting coins, as well as a boss to beat at the end of the level. Once the boss has been beaten, you will be given a high score based on how many coins you collected and the enemies you defeated. The complexity of the levels will increase slightly, but not much else changes. One level may have more enemies, whereas another may have more puzzles, but that’s about where the gameplay differences stop. This can make replaying a grind as it makes each level feel like you’ve been there and done that. You could try and beat the high score that was set by you or your friends, so if that appeals to you, then replay value might not be an issue.
The voxel adventure that is Riverbond, with its simple controls and beautiful world, is perfect for the Nintendo Switch. The cute creatures, unique weapons, and skins are sure to draw players into a fun time. With limited reasons to replay and repetitive gameplay, your time with Riverbond may be limited. However, it’s still a game that brings excellent value even if you only ever experience it once.