LadiesGamers Rivers Tails

Rivers Tails: Stronger Together Early Access Impressions

Code provided with many thanks to Press Engine.

Better Together

The success of games like It Takes Two, both critically and in sales, shows there is a clear demand for co-op-focused titles. While poorly ignored in the AAA gaming space, indie developers always take up the mantle of developing new innovative titles on a small budget.

Today, for Early Impressions, I’m going to cover River Tails: Stronger Together. A co-op-focused 3D platformer that recently entered Early Access and is well worth putting on your gaming radar if you’re looking for something to be played with a loved one.

LadiesGamers: Rivers Tails
One runs the other swims

Unlikely Allies

The premise follows two unlikely allies: a kitten and a fish. The kitten, Furble, has been separated from his siblings thanks to the misdeeds of a nasty wolf. The kitten then encounters a fish named Finn, who has also got into a spot of bother. Some bully fish has stolen his strand of grass or weed. I’m not entirely sure, but it’s really important to the fish, rather than maybe just picking another bit of grass. So the game’s initial goal is to reclaim this item from the bully fish. This is more important than the main goal to reunite Furble with his family before the wolf gets to them. It’s a premise that’s innocent and silly which will likely get a chuckle out of the younger audience, with humour delivered without the need for voice acting.

The presentation of the game is very lighthearted. It is bursting with colour and happiness. Furble is all smiles whilst Finn has a bit more of a chip on his fishy shoulder. The characters felt like something you would see in a younger kids’ show. I started to wonder if they would start teaching me to count at one stage, but alas, that was not the case. In this early access stage, audio in-game sounds are mostly absent. But there is a whimsical soundtrack which feels upbeat and appropriately accompanies the family-friendly presentation.

LadiesGamers: Rivers Tails
What big fangs you have

Jump and Splash

Gameplay is easy to pick up and play. First, each player needs to decide who will control Finn or Furble. Though the better question maybe is: do you prefer to stay on land or swim in the water? Each character can only survive in their designated medium. If Finn accidentally jumps onto land, he will instantly die as is the same for Furble in the water.

The controls for each character are very simple and easy to pick up for all gaming audiences. Each one can move, jump and pull on levers to activate objects in the environment. This is usually a platform or a door for the other character to access. Considering the game doesn’t split screen, I was quite surprised how well my wife and I kept pace with each other in the game. There was rarely an opportunity to get ahead of the other player. Instead, there was this smooth melody of movement between us as I jumped across one platform with Furble and my wife splashed around with Finn.

New Mechanics Introduced

Each level tends to introduce a new mechanic. For example, Finn needs to hit a lily pad from below for it to turn into a platform for Furble. Furble is able to scare away enemy fish keeping Finn safe from harm, provided you stay close to each other. The game does a good job of keeping each player busy and regularly introducing new mechanics. Communication is the key but rarely taxing to the extent you can’t progress.

Death comes pretty quickly in this game; if one player messes up, it’s back to the last checkpoint. The good news is checkpoints are very frequent, and load times are instant. You can play with a controller each or share a single one together by using opposite ends of the pad to control each character. You could even try to play this game alone, but you would need some impressive multi-tasking skills.

LadiesGamers: Rivers Tails
A helping finn

Early State 

Being in Early Access, the game really shows signs of early-stage development. Sound effects are pretty absent, leaving just the music to enjoy. Hit detection of hazards, especially those darn fishbone spikes, is awful. This is made even more difficult by the game’s camera sometimes pointing in weird positions, making it tricky to see the platforms. Boss fights are a bit messy, with hit detection being a bit of a notable problem in the first one when activating specific traps. But since this is Early Access, there is time for all this to be ironed out, hopefully.

In the game’s current state, you have access to two chapters. Each contains a few levels, a boss fight to conquer, and several collectables to find. Developers are hard at work already patching the game with a recent update adding keyboard support. Almost every day I logged into Steam, some new patch was added to the game. If you want to show the developers some support and watch the game as it develops, be sure to jump or splash in. But if you want to wait, add it to your wishlist, as this also helps support them. 

LadiesGamers: Rivers Tails
Two versus one

River Tails: Stronger Together may be in its early stages but shows much promise as a co-op-centric title. Not sure the co-op bond has been strengthened between my wife and me since she struggled to jump across the fish bones, but I sure enjoyed my time with the game.

It’s available in Early Access right now. The game is looking to release to consoles in the future, including Nintendo Switch.

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