River Tails: Stronger Together – Preview
Follow Genre: Puzzle platformer, co-op game
Developer: Kid Onion Studio
Platform: PC
Tested on: PC

River Tails: Stronger Together – Preview

Good: Different mechanics are showcased well in Early Access
Bad: Controls are awkward in solo mode
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Rating: 7.0/10 (1 vote cast)

You may not yet have heard of indie developer Kid Onion Studio, but if their upcoming title River Tails: Stronger Together is anything to go by, expect them to carve out their name in the co-op game community. Currently in Early Access on Steam, River Tails is a fantastic showcase of what the six-man development team is capable of. The game immediately drew our attention with its cartoon art style, and the subsequent gameplay convinced us that this is a title definitely worth checking out. Read on to find out what made River Tails stand out to us.

As an asymmetrical puzzle platformer, River Tails: Stronger Together lets players take on the roles of a cat named Furple and a fish named Finn. To get perhaps the most important question out of the way: yes, the game is a two-player co-op title first and foremost, but you can absolutely tackle it solo. In that case, you control both characters with a single controller, which feels a bit fiddly at first, but quickly becomes second nature. There is an option to play River Tails with a mouse and keyboard as well, but we preferred the controller setup by a wide margin. That bodes well for the upcoming console versions of River Tails, of course, as the game is slated to make an appearance on Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch eventually.

The gimmick here is that, as a cat, Furple hates water, whereas Finn can’t survive on dry land as he is a fish. These two protagonists are forced to forge an unlikely alliance in order to overcome their individual problems: Furple has been separated from his family, while Finn’s precious twig was stolen by a piranha. We’re not quite sure how the two stories are tied together but things will likely become more clear as the game inches closer to its full release. The narrative unfolds through cute little cutscenes that eschew the need for dialogue, as the visuals do most of the storytelling. Those visuals are absolutely beautiful, by the way. The environments are colorful, with the water in particular looking fantastic, and the character designs for our protagonists ooze personality.

The puzzles strike the right balance between being challenging when they need to be, yet easy enough to understand. An early example involves piranhas that will attack Finn on sight. Being a big scary cat, Furple is the perfect deterrent for Finn’s fishy assailants, so it’s up to our feline friend to keep the piranhas at bay. The game continues to build on the foundations laid in those early stages, by introducing more advanced piranha variants that aren’t scared away as easily. Early on, some of the game’s puzzle logic requires a little trial and error but ultimately, this is a game that players of all ages will be able to enjoy, even if it can be challenging at times. Fortunately, there are plenty of checkpoints, as it’s easy to make a mistake resulting in a game over. Furple can’t swim, so the second he falls into the water, you’ll return to the previous checkpoint. Likewise, Finn will need to avoid platforms when he’s jumping out of the water.

We played River Tails as a solo experience and while the game certainly is playable, it’s clearly less than ideal to do so. In solo mode, each character is tied to a controller stick and puzzles that require simultaneous actions can really put a strain on your wrists. Finn and Furple are tethered to one another so you can’t exactly move one character too far away from one another either, which resulted in occasional frustration with camera angles. While tethering is something that occurs in co-op gameplay as well, the controls are likely to be far more forgiving with each player fully focused on a single character.

At the time of writing, there is only a limited amount of content available for the game, and you’ll be able to see and do everything River Tails has to offer in a handful of hours. If what’s present here is a sign of things to come, however, this might be a game to keep your eye on, even if you’re not ready yet to take the plunge. There are already plenty of things to do, from collecting different kinds of birds to gathering radishes that don’t do anything…yet. The handful of chapters showcases everything from boss battles to time trials, although the latter isn’t something we recommend doing solo. Fortunately, these time trials, which see Finn manipulate the environment so that Furple can attempt to cross the level in record time, are restricted to the Beaver Resort rather than the main game. The Beaver Resort acts as a hub area of sorts, where you are also able to pick up cosmetics. There are plenty of things yet to come here too, as several areas are under construction. It’s fitting, given how beavers are typically depicted as construction workers in fiction, and we can’t wait to see what they are building for the future.

There are a handful of areas that need more work than others, and we’re not just talking about beaver-related features. The most prominent element that could use some sprucing up is the audioscape. The music is decent enough, bringing old-school Crash Bandicoot games to mind, and during cutscenes, music expresses character emotions. It’s a neat way to circumvent the need for voice acting. However, sound effects leave a lot to be desired at this point, either being completely absent or feeling generic and ill-fitting. The aforementioned camera angles could also do with some reworks. Finally, hitboxes occasionally seem off, leading to frustrating and messy boss battles in particular. Of course, the game is still being worked on, so hopefully some of the kinks are ironed out before the full release.


While we weren’t able to enjoy River Tails to its fullest co-op potential, giving the game a shot as a solo experience instead, we were still suitably impressed with what was already present here. It’s clear that the game is a labor of love and although it’s far from finished, River Tails is already showing signs of future greatness. This is definitely an Early Access title to keep an eye on.

VN:R_U [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 7.0/10 (1 vote cast)
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River Tails: Stronger Together - Preview, 7.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

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