One of the challenges when doing multiple reviews is finding a sense of consistency. Scores only have meaning when you can understand the logic behind them, but there are always exceptions. Some games are able to transcend by being better than the sum of their parts, where as other times they simply speak to a specific demographic where these elements aren’t as important. This is ultimately the struggle of reviewing Riverbond.
While there is no overarching story, players are allowed to interact with NPCs and get a sense of what is going on. These are extremely brief explanations that point to easily inferred things. This place was taken over by a bad guy or this person is doing bad things, so you do a bunch of seemingly random tasks, followed by defeating them. This is fine for a game primarily aimed at children, the issue is it just doesn’t have a lot going on.
Combat is extremely straightforward. You can roll, attack, do a special attack and jump. There are various weapons, with multiple different weapon types, but ultimately close and ranged are all you need. From there, characters don’t have complicated moves, elegant combos or even any level of depth.
Roll has a fairly generous amount of invincibility frames, so it can be your catch all to mitigate damage and weapons have one attack that is repeated endlessly. From there, you can find more weapons but the damage they do seems to be random. Sometimes it will be more, other times less, the only thing that matters is how functional it is. The starting sword strikes fast and while other weapons might strike harder, it overcomes any shortcoming by simply attacking more. It can also stun enemies, ultimately preventing them from even attacking in the first place.
The real issue with Riverbond is that ultimately nothing matters. There is seemingly no limit to lives, outside of a time limit for bosses and even that seems to be for additional points over a condition to succeed. From there, you can collect coins, find secrets, talk to people and defeat enemies, though it all makes up a sum that dictates who wins, assuming you’re playing with a party, and a high score. This is so you can theoretically collect more pointless things on a later date, assuming you want to try to achieve the best for the sake of it.
This is ultimately the issue. Combat is one move, objectives are extremely obvious and nothing matters unless you care about score. This can make for a fun run or easy platinum, maybe even a silly game to play with others once or twice, similar to the appeal of Lego games, but otherwise there just isn’t much.
Sure, the art style is cute and the characters have a fair amount of personality, it just isn’t enough to sell the concept. I could even get behind some things had there been more, except it’s about as bland as the trophies. Talk to this person, play this level, defeat this boss and enjoy your prize.
Riverbond is ultimately an extremely simple game meant to appeal to a younger or less experienced gamers. While the art style is cute and gameplay is fun, even if it is extremely simple, there really isn’t much to see. After a level or two you realize nothing really matters and it becomes a quest to earn as many points for the sake of it or finish everything for an easy platinum. That said, if you could get it for a bit less, I could see it being a solid choice for anyone looking for something simple and easy to play with kids or introduce their significant other to gaming.