As they say, ‘the devil is in the detail’. Rift Adventure is a perfectly serviceable little action-platformer, and the vast majority of it works. But it makes a few decisions that might seem inconsequential and tiny on paper, but they eat away at the experience like woodworm.
The setup is extremely by-the-numbers. You start by playing as Krinis, a humanoid rabbit, and you’re out for a stroll with your cheetah-woman friend, Aksius. You come across an ancient temple, and – oopsy daisy – wake a necromancer called Diaphores, who starts opening portals around the world, pouring in beasties. To make matters worse (and a little too damsel-in-distress), the necromancer captures Aksius, forcing her to his will. You have to simultaneously save your friend and save the world.
Animal-people aside, it couldn’t be more run-of-the-mill, but it’s a familiar base for everything else to build on. You are hopping into twenty discrete levels, no more than five or ten minutes to complete, and your aim is to get to the portal at the end, presumably as you get closer and closer to Diaphores.
It’s all from the platforming playbook, and very little will surprise. Platforms move or crumble when you stand on them. Enemies patrol back and forth, with the added interest that you do double damage if you attack from behind. Chests are tucked behind hidden walls, and ropes can be grabbed onto, pulling yourself up to avoid the back and forth of arrows. On a couple of occasions we had to go left rather than right, or we were chased by a boulder or rising lava, but we’ve all faced these multiple times in multiple titles.
But hold up, it’s all rather enjoyable. Levels don’t outstay their welcome. The controls are rough on a couple of edges – Krinis’s melee attack is a little on the short and limp side, and jumping to and from ropes is an art that you’ll only master on the latter levels – but generally they’re above par. And the difficulty is dialled down, meaning that you can mindlessly romp through a level, acting on reflexes rather than skill.
The characters (you get to control Aksius halfway through) are also nicely varied. Krinis has a double-jump and dash, and that dash can blink you through barriers. So it’s got a triple-utility of getting you into secret (or not so secret) areas; helping you out when you’re missing a jump; or giving you the opportunity for a backstab. That last one works particularly well: the combination of blink-dash and enemies that are susceptible to a knife in the kidneys makes for satisfying gameplay.
Aksius has a bomb that blows open blocks, but also gets used for a kind of Quake-style rocket jump. The explosion will catapult you to higher platforms, without any friendly fire. Her basic attack is a blunderbuss/shotgun-like thing, so she can attack from range but in a cone-shaped blast, so you can kill enemies while camping on higher and lower platforms. In a lot of cases this means that you can cheekily kill enemies without them being able to reach you, which feels cheap but great.
The two characters are different enough to make Rift Adventure feel like a fresh game every time you alternate. Playing as Aksius makes the combat less of an obstacle, but playing as the teleporting Krinis makes the platforming a cinch. Swinging between the two of them never gets old.
Complete a level, though, and you’re dumped into a hub settlement, and it’s here where those pesky, disruptive details appear.
Rift Adventure’s hub settlement isn’t just a location for shops and the level-menu: it levels-up over time, and periodically gets invaded. Neither are particularly complicated. The settlement levels up as you purchase items from shops, as trickle-down economics brings wealth to the various merchants. As those merchants level up, they get better stock, and the buildings look increasingly impressive.
But every three levels, or thereabouts, the settlement gets invaded by one of Diaphores’s portals. You get up to nine waves of enemies, and even the game’s bosses will turn up. If you fail to beat back the hordes, your settlement will decrease a level, which you will need to build back up again by purchasing stuff.
It sounds like it should work, but the settlement hub has various small issues, and they begin to detract from the platforming sections that do work.
Invasions happen immediately after a level, so you’re often starting them without any health, and without food items that replenish health. If you’re not prepared, it can mean that you’re doomed to die. But these invasions are one-and-done: if you fail, you will never see them again. Considering they are a great source of wealth, and they can be quite fun, this can feel punitive.
Having decreased a level on your settlement, it’s not clear what’s needed to go back up a level. There’s no bar or progress tracker. You’re buying stuff from shops on the off-chance that you’ve done enough. It’s too invisible, and you soon stop engaging with the whole ‘settlement level’ thing.
But it’s Rift Adventure’s approach to health and wealth that sticks in the craw. Health can be regained mid-level by eating food, and that food can only be bought back at the hub. But you can only have one of each type of food. So, you’re stopping off at shops to buy one cheese, one carrot, etc. This process is oddly laborious, but essential. It becomes more of a problem against the game’s four bosses. Bosses don’t drop any gold, so – fail enough times against them – and you can be left in a situation without gold, without food, and without a chance. So you grind. You return to earlier levels and grind out the gold, just so you can have another chance against some of the sterner bosses. It makes bosses a horrible slog, where punishment is a re-run of a ten minute level (or maybe a couple of them), and that’s no fun.
Rift Adventure can often feel like it doesn’t want you to play. You start on the left-hand side of the hub, and have to walk a couple of minutes to get to the level-select on the right-hand side of the hub. There is no opportunity to just hop into a level immediately. And dialogue is largely repeated and unskippable, appearing before every boss and after every invasion. The sodding Mayor just won’t let us get on with saving his village.
At some point, Rift Adventure must have been an unambitious but fun little action-platformer. The controls felt good, the levels were unremarkable but had a nice flow to them, and the two characters felt powerful and varied. But you get the sense that the developers got itchy, adding a hub settlement and a bizarre food system. And lo, everything slowed down, mired in grind and makework.
There’s a cute little platformer here. What it lacks in frills, it makes up for in solid, no-nonsense gameplay. But be aware that it’s the moments between the levels, when the Rift Adventure stops for a moment, that the devil creeps in.
You can buy Rift Adventure for £6.69 from the Xbox Store for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S