For as weird as this might sound, it’s hard to come by a good couch co-op game nowadays. They used to be so plentiful back in the older generation of consoles, but with the advent of online play, local multiplayer has pretty much been extinct, so when one as fun as Cococucumber’s Riverbond comes along, it’s reason for praise. It borrows the blocky look of Minecraft, but it’s anything like that game at all. It’s an action brawler/shooter combo that manages to be incredibly simple to pick up and play, be it with experienced players or newcomers.
There’s much to getting into Riverbond at all. You choose a character skin from a host of different ones you can unlock along the way, including characters from other indie hits like Guacamelee, and jump right into the fray. Things start out rather slowly, if you choose to play the tutorial, with little cute pigs with spears coming at you, but as things progress, chaos takes its place. While never overwhelming, the action in Riverbond provides a decent challenge for anyone tackling it solo, even if most encounters end up boiling down to a lot of strafing and circle dodging, since enemy behavior seems to be at a consensus of merely beelining to you.
Fighting is pretty easy. You start off with a sword, but quickly acquire more kinds of melee weapons that include hammers and claws, as well as the ranged variety, like a laser gun and a crossbow. They each include benefits and weaknesses, so having at least one of each kind in your inventory is a good idea. You can attack with both a face button or a trigger, and since the ranged attacks can be aimed with the right stick, you’re better off using the trigger to shoot, for comfort’s sake. During my time playing, I had a better time playing Riverbond as a shooter, but getting in close and personal is also fun and totally doable, thanks to a special stomp attack that can temporarily stun enemies. You run into healing potions along the way that help keep you going, but they can only be used when your health is lower than 100%. They’re used straight away when you pick them up, so if you find yourself in a boss arena, it’s a good idea to remember when these vials are located so you can run to them as needed.
You get to pick from whatever level you want once you get into the main game off of the tutorial, and these range pretty wildly when it comes to theme and what sort of enemies you’ll be fighting. There’s a lava stage, a snow one, the works, and each provides a varied amount of objectives you have to finish at each stage before moving on to the next, like finding keys, beating a certain number of goons, rescuing prisoners, or even destroying fortifications, up until you reach the boss room, which as you can imagine, involves beating the ever living blocks off of whoever is the end encounter for that world. If you’re playing with someone by your side, at the end of each world, you’ll be scored and ranked, and the winner takes the literal crown in a hilarious screen where there’s an intentionally awkward silence and whoever won can freely move about and break everything on their path.
Thanks to its charming visuals, Riverbond is harmless enough that kids can safely play along with relatives and parents without any worry about violence. Sure, enemies explode into blocks that scatter all around when they’re defeated, but that’s as far as things get, and it’s nothing anyone who’s played a Lego game over the years has seen. The character variety provides plenty of comical choices too which should get a chuckle out of everyone: I mean, who never dreamed of fighting hordes of enemies as a slice of watermelon, or even a doughnut?
Riverbond might prove to have less legs if you solely play on your own. The only real incentive to keep playing is the ability to unlock more character skins, really, since the trophies/achievements are really nothing to write home about and are incredibly easy to get, and the high score battle is nowhere to be seen when playing by yourself. Still, considering the amount of worlds to play through, at least you won’t run out of content to play for a few hours. This is easily a game better enjoyed with a player partner by your side, most definitely.