River Tails: Stronger Together is an early-access 3D platformer that packs a challenge and a lot of cuteness. Developed by Kid Onion Studio and published by GRAVITY GAME ARISE Co., Ltd., River Tails brings the unlikely duo of Furple and Finn to an exciting adventure across various obstacles and enemies. In my River Tails: Stronger Together impressions, I’ll talk about what we can expect from this adorable co-op platformer.
Cartoonish 3D Visual Style
One of the main things about River Tails that caught my attention is its cute and cartoonish visual style. I would even argue that it’s the game’s main selling point!
The visuals team definitely did an excellent job of incorporating the cartoonish visual style with its 3D environments. The game’s extremely colorful visuals are as vibrant as any platformer game can get, but they also remain easy on the eyes. The screen rarely looks cluttered, and I was often able to appreciate the game’s environment despite being in the middle of all the action.
Even in the busier scenes, you’ll never see any clutter, and the environments are detailed, with tons of neat touches, and individual animations.
The characters in River Tails look far from realistic, but this is, of course, part of the game’s appeal. Their quirkiness and sometimes exaggerated features only make them more lovable and adorable. Their designs always make them stand out in any scenario, and it’s really hard to miss the characters except in rare cases of buggy or odd angles.
Moreover, the enemy characters in this game seem like they’re trying to look scary to a young audience. They’re stylized in a way that makes them easily distinguishable as enemies while still perfectly fitting in with the game’s vibrant visual theme, which is another thing that I like the most in the game’s visual direction.
Consistently Vibrant Visuals
All of the visual elements in River Tails—from the characters to the various nature-themed environments—manage to stay consistent throughout my playthrough. The areas in the game successfully build upon its fundamental visual theme while still presenting something new or interesting most of the time.
Even though the graphics are cartoonish and sometimes exaggerated, the game’s 3D environment still provides an effectively immersive gameplay experience.
I did encounter a few visual bugs during my playthrough, such as Finn phasing through some solid rock and some environmental elements missing. But so far, none of those were game-breaking.
In River Tails, you and your partner will embark on a journey across rivers and jungles as a duo composed of a jolly purple kitten named Furple and a tough-looking fish named Finn. As with any platformer, the fundamental gameplay loop revolves around overcoming various obstacles with increasing difficulty while playing within the game’s internal logic and physics.
I don’t think the game offers a particularly unique experience compared to similar co-op experiences, but this doesn’t mean that it falls short of its promise of an “innovative and fun” gameplay experience.
River Tails features various kinds of challenges and obstacles, most of which effectively take advantage of the game’s emphasis on cooperative gameplay. The co-op aspect of the game (or having to control two characters in Lone Wolf mode) opens up a lot of possibilities for unique and innovative gameplay mechanics, and the developers definitely were able to capitalize on that aspect.
Maximizing the “Co-Op” Aspect
Each character has its own set of obstacles and roles, though these obstacles are often thematically the same. For example, Furple has to jump over logs and uneven terrain while Finn has to leap over piles of rocks in the river.
However, some interactions are unique between a specific character and the environment. For example, Furple can interact with large leaves that block Finn’s path while Finn can interact with vines to raise logs for Furple to jump on.
As the game’s title suggests, River Tails is meant to be played with a partner. In this game, you literally are “stronger together.” The obstacles and challenges are much easier to overcome when you have a reliable companion.
Most of the obstacles in the game demand the cooperation of both players, and many of the challenges also require good coordination and timing. For example, some series of obstacles involve puzzles that require action from Furple to allow Finn to advance while immediately followed by obstacles that require action from Finn to allow Furple to advance.
However, there is still an option to play this game solo. In the Lone Wolf game mode, you take control of both Furple and Finn via a single controller. You control Finn’s actions via the left-side buttons of the controller while you control Furple’s actions via the right-side buttons.
Co-Op Vs Lone Wolf
Although the game isn’t the most difficult platformer game out there, it does offer some level of challenge that will force players of any skill level to remain focused on the screen. However, playing in Lone Wolf mode makes the game five times more difficult in my experience.
Some puzzles and obstacles remain a breeze, especially the ones during the early stages. But many challenges later in the game are much harder to overcome when you’re playing solo than with a partner. This difference in difficulty becomes very apparent in obstacles that involve synchronized actions and precise timing.
Some obstacles require Furple and Finn to work in sync with each other or act simultaneously within a short window of time. In these cases, playing solo means that you’ll have to multitask and control both characters at the same time while maintaining precision and timing. I guarantee you that this is much harder than it sounds!
This may be good news to players who crave a more challenging experience, but the difference in the difficulty levels may prevent many other players from actually enjoying the game. It can sometimes be frustrating when you keep failing an obstacle or puzzle because you have no one else to coordinate the actions with even though you already know the solution.
Fortunately, “dying” in the game just means you’ll go back to the last save point, so you don’t have to start the stage all over if you fail.
The controls in this game are very simple. You will need to press no more than three (six if you’re playing alone) different buttons to overcome most of the obstacles present in the game. They are also pretty straightforward—the joysticks are for the movement, and you have a button corresponding to the jump/leap action and another for interacting with the world.
Unfortunately, as of writing, the game only fully supports controllers. However, the in-game settings hint that possible keyboard support might be in the works.
The game’s audio remains consistent with its visual style. The music is relaxing when there isn’t anything happening yet. But it spontaneously becomes livelier when there is action on the screen. You can even hear the cartoonish timing of some sound effects, which fits well with the game’s cartoonish visuals.
Moreover, the limited sounds of the environment still provide some level of immersive experience. Although the audio isn’t that detailed, the sounds of actions and intense music are more than enough to keep you hyped.
My only issue with the audio is that it’s sometimes buggy. More often than not, the in-game sliders for the music and overall volume don’t work. And the game sometimes becomes too quiet during certain scenes (not sure if it’s actually a bug or an artistic choice). Nevertheless, these are just minor bugs that can be easily fixed by the developers.
River Tails: Stronger Together is an adorable and fun co-op platformer that provides a decent level of challenge and a whole lot of excitement. You’ll have more fun and appreciate the game more when playing with a partner, but choosing to go the Lone Wolf route is just as fun while also being more challenging.
The main strength of River Tails is its fantastic and vibrant visuals coupled with exciting and enjoyable gameplay.
River Tails: Stronger Together is available on Steam as an early access title.
What did you think of our River Tails: Stronger Together Impressions? Are you looking to pick the game up? Share your thoughts in the comments below.