words manifested by: AJ Johnson

A game by IMakeGames for PC, Mac, and Linux, originally released in 2018.
Rifter is a fast-paced aerobatic grappler set in a neon-lit world. Players race through dozens of stages, grappling and swinging into the air, dashing around obstacles, slashing through enemies, and toppling giant obelisks while a synthwave soundtrack pulses in the background. The game centers around a Rifter, who is accompanied by a hovering triangular entity called Tiny who explains the Rifter’s abilities, comments on various goings-on as the plot unfolds, and speaks on his behalf of the silent protagonist.

Rifters are tasked with dashing through environments and finding cracks – or rifts – in giant stone monoliths. Rifts appear at the end of each level, with the player repeatedly bashing into them until the cracks expand. Each area consists of a set of levels and a stone tower, and once enough rifts have been opened, the player visits the tower to destroy it. Along the way, the player learns more about the world around him, which actively calls into question his mission of destruction, as well as the missions of the Rifters who came before him.

The game offers a variety of control schemes for your movement and grappling abilities (and fully remappable buttons), some of which are nontraditional for grapple-based games. These include a couple of classic control schemes for using just a keyboard or just a controller. However, the game also offers a mouse and keyboard combination where players can aim their grapple hook with the mouse, independently of movement, as well as a dual analogue configuration where the right stick is used for independent aim.

These independent aiming controls are the recommended way to play, and they open up some unusual possibilities that support the game’s fast-paced design and precision movement. The most important of these advanced controls is the ability to grapple freely in any direction, allowing players to grab grapple points below them or at downward angles and transfer their momentum into distant flings that send them rocketing around the environment or toward out-of-the-way caches of collectibles.

Players use the same grapple controls to attack enemies in any direction around them, which is important as many foes are shielded can only be attacked from certain directions. When in close proximity to an enemy, the player aims in the enemy’s direction as he would with a grapple point, and the Rifter then performs an air dash in that direction. Turret-style enemies may be bashed, whereas tentacle-style enemies may be sliced through, and occasionally the player must perform air dashes to bash through obstacles such as walls of ice.

The difficulty level starts off low with only a small number of movements available to the player, and each new enemy, obstacle, and environmental object is explained as it is introduced. Checkpoints appear in longer levels, but they only work once, so if you die and return to a checkpoint, your next death will return you to the start of the level. There are no checkpoints in the stone tower levels at the end of each area, and these levels feature long stretches where the player must outrun a wall of energy or be killed instantly.

Difficulty begins ramping up toward the end of the first world, and players must put all of their skills to use when facing the boss of that world, which is a colossal neon beast. This boss can crush the player underfoot in a single stomp, or kill him in two strikes with a swing of his arm. The player must attack weak points on the creature which appear at higher and higher points on its body as the battle continues, requiring that the player grapple upward while avoiding attacks, and then up an air dash to strike. Between each successful hit, the boss lets off an energy blast, so players must not only deal damage but also get away quickly to avoid taking damage in return. And, since the player is momentarily stunned when falling from a great height, he must also attach to grapple points on the way back down and swing to safety with only a few seconds to avoid a potentially deadly blast.

Going into the second world, the player earns a midair dash maneuver that may be performed after travelling through floating speed boosters (called dash points). The player is quickly placed in situations where these midair boosts are required for basic environmental navigation, including crossing gaps, reaching high platforms, and fighting enemies. All the while, the player must avoid walls of electricity, enemy projectiles, and floating mines that give chase and explode. Many levels also feature water along the bottom edge of the environment, which initially acts as an insta-death trap, but in the second world, the player is able to swim for a bit without dying.

Most environments are small and are meant to be completed in a minute or two, and there are a number of additional rewards for speedrunners who wish to drive their times down to just a few seconds. Some advanced speedrunning tactics are made possible by purchasing upgrades with crystal shards found in the environment during the main quest.

A shop in each world lets players purchase upgrades along three different skill branches, with 10 upgrades in each branch, and each of these corresponds to a specific color of shard. Upgrades include the ability to climb ledges, various speed boosts, invincibility while dashing, health restoration, and permanent health increases. There’s also an upgrade that allows the player to skip along the surface of the water if he is moving quickly enough, similar to the mechanics in Remnants of Naezith.

The game features loads of content, offering more than 90 stages of action, which are comprised of five or six levels in each region, a tower destruction level, a boss level at the end of each world, and numerous optional challenge levels for expert players with additional monetary rewards. Each of the main levels also features secondary objectives for additional rewards, such as achieving a high combo (multiple grapples without taking damage or touching the ground), making it through a level without taking damage, or completing levels under specified time limits… further adding rewards for speedrunners.

In addition to interacting with your hovering triangular companion, you’ll also meet several other beings along the way, including another Rifter, a strange individual who offers challenge levels, the shopkeepers, and a floating head that offers insight into the history of the Rifters and the worlds they are destroying… for a price. The game regularly draws attention to various gaming conceits, such as the fact that the world resets over time, asking why the Rifter is completing the in the first place, and questioning things like why the Rifter respawns after death.

Rifter was developed by IMakeGames, a studio based in Vienna, Austria. The studio is headed by Maximilian Csuk and was founded in 2011. The developer also created the open world platformer Nubs’ Adventure, as well as Planet Wars and Rico - A Tale Of Two Brothers. Music for the game was composed by a variety of artists, including Zombie Hyperdrive, Wobblersound, Gloom Influx, Violaine, Gustav Eriksson, Den Turner, and Al Dunmer.