Imagine you’re in a hack-n-slash game where you're killing enemies, co-oping with friends and collecting loot all within the setting of a brutally dangerous world filled with disturbing creatures whose bodies are splattered in a mess of blood and gore with every swing of your sword. Now take all of that setting away and replace it with a brightly coloured voxel world, cute voxel characters, and a variety of adorable weapons made out of - you guessed it! - voxel graphics. This is Riverbond.
Riverbond is an incredibly simple hack-n-slash co-op game. There is a choice of levels that don’t appear to have any discernible connection to each other beyond the voxel graphical style. Players must venture through each level collecting weapons of different types, unlocking cute disembodied voxel heads that can be used as playable characters, and fighting bosses in order to clear them. Each level contains approximately two of each type of weapon which aren't retained after levels are cleared, an odd choice considering all levels appear to have different weapon models and barely any noticeable difference gameplay-wise. The closest thing Riverbond has to a story is that the player must venture through the levels to find all the voxel characters. As collecting seems to be the order of the day, it’s a puzzling choice to have weapons reset between levels.
Controlling your voxel avatar is incredibly simple. You move around, swing your weapon, which can also do a charged attack by holding the attack button down, and perform dodges. There is also a super attack that becomes available once a bar is filled up, though it’s not particularly impressive as it acts more like an AOE crowd scattering attack rather than a devastating one. Jumping is possible as well for traversal purposes and the odd platforming but it feels tacked on to make some of the overly simplistic puzzling a bit more tedious.
It’s hard to tell who Riverbond is made for. On the one hand, the game is a big puffy fluffy voxel world bursting with bright colors and adorable characters which literally any young child would instantly fall in love with. On the other hand, some of the game’s levels are challenging enough for an adult to amass an impressive number of deaths. Riverbond’s bosses are also quite formidable as they all seem to boast a robust selection from the Giant Boss’s Bag of Tricks from the collective of action games that come out these days. You know the long wind up that some Dark Souls bosses love to annoyingly throw at you to make you mistime your dodge? There’s a boss in this game that does that and it’s made this raging gamer damn near flip a table. It’s not farfetched to assume that the game is primarily designed with co-op in mind, particularly couch co-op which is always a welcome feature. Thanks to its voxel explosion of a world, Riverbond feels quite close to being the ideal family game.
Riverbond isn’t by any stretch of the imagination a bad game. Quite the opposite, it’s fun and relaxing especially when more players are involved. It’s within a solo play context where the game seems to be at odds with its own identity. As a co-op experience though it feels like a great game to bust out for party play or to start children off with their action adventure titles.