When I started Game Together, it was primarily because I felt too few gaming outlets give any attention to the games made for families. I love gaming with my son and wife and if we weren’t doing a whole lot of digging into which games are best for us to play as a family, we very often would’ve missed some of our favorites entirely.
Now that I have my own space to highlight family games, I’m going to make it easier for anyone else like me out there, googling into the wide world of games, trying to find the best of them for you and your kids. I’m kicking off this feature with a game that epitomizes much of what I love about good family-oriented games. It’s challenging but forgiving, vibrantly colorful, frequently humorous, and demands good cooperative play. Introducing Riverbond.
Riverbond is billed as a shoot-and-slash dungeon crawler, though don’t be scared off if you’re looking for something age-appropriate. The “violence” is on par with Minecraft, as is the amazing voxel palette that paints the whole game in unforgettable colors. If you’ve ever played Diablo, it’s like that, but very, very cute.
Together with up to three others played locally, players take on the role of various different avatars as you fight through eight overworlds, collecting new weapons, lots of massive coins, and defeating humongous bosses like a gigantic crab or a robot. The enemies come fast and furious in Riverbond, but they never quite feel daunting. With several different types of weapons, including swords, projectiles, and even the once-popular Hulk Hands (called Orc Fists here), players are able to mix and match different loadouts, find their preferred setup, and slash and shoot through hundreds of voxel enemies that shatter like a dropped LEGO set.
New playable characters can be acquired too, so while you start as a bunny, by the end of the game you’ll have upwards of 30 different characters to choose from, including a zebra, a donut, an avocado, a cat, and many more. There are even a bunch of guest characters from other indie games, like Juan from Guacamelee and The Kid from Bastion. Every player young and old will find at least a few favorites.
What makes Riverbond a great family game goes beyond just its appealing art style or numerous funny weapons and avatars, though. Its best attribute is certainly how forgiving it is. Dying in Riverbond has nearly no penalty. If you die four minutes into a level, you respawn at the start but all of your progress is intact. Every quest item acquired is still in your pouch, every enemy defeated is still gone for good, you still have all your favorite weapons. Literally the only thing you lose is a few steps of movement in levels that are more like hubs anyway, so you’ll backtrack a bit across these big rectangles in the first place. If you happen to find the scattered checkpoints, that makes it so even then you needn’t go back to start too.
For parents or siblings playing with much younger kids, this feature is awesome. There’s no obstacle the smallest hands can’t overcome because it becomes a war of attrition where you’ll always have another chance and you won’t even have to start your progress over. Even the game’s eight boss battles, should they send you back to start, keep your damage intact. If a gigantic penguin sends you away with half its life missing, you’ll respawn nearby with everything you had before, while the tyrant bird still misses half of its life bar. Riverbond is fun and vibrant always, and because of this forgiving design, it’s totally frustration-free.
If you’d like to try Riverbond for yourself, I’m giving away one Xbox One code for the game. To enter, head over to Twitter and follow the instructions posted @GameTogetherNet. Good luck and thanks for reading!
Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, Steam
Genre: Isometric Hack-and-slash
Price: $24.99, included in Xbox Game Pass
Co-op modes: Local, up to four players
Rating: E10+ (Fantasy violence)