Game Review: Riverdale Rescue

Game Review: Riverdale Rescue

Archie Riverdale Rescue Developer: Gogii Games Corp. Platforms: iPhone, iPad, Android, PC Though I was exposed to computer games at an early age, I don’t claim a gamer identity. As a youngster, I had an unhealthy obsession with games. I was the brat who would pout and refuse to play if I realized there was

Archie Riverdale Rescue

Developer: Gogii Games Corp.
Platforms: iPhone, iPad, Android, PC

Though I was exposed to computer games at an early age, I don’t claim a gamer identity. As a youngster, I had an unhealthy obsession with games. I was the brat who would pout and refuse to play if I realized there was no way I could win. I was not above cheating—I can still stack a card deck—and if I wasn’t playing a game, I would plot how to win. I’m just saying all this to emphasize that I can’t be trusted to game responsibly.

Riverdale Rescue is a free-to-play, real time game developed in conjunction with Archie Comics and Gogii Games, available on iPhone and iPad. In her review of SimCity BuildIt, Megan P. nicely summed up the way one should ideally approach free-to-play games:

“You have a choice: play smartly, play patiently, and walk away when you’re tempted to pay for advancement, or pay your way through every obstacle.”

I mostly went for the latter. Using Archie characters, you build friendships and romances (including queer ones!), complete quests, clean up Riverdale, fix up buildings, and decorate the town. Not only is Riverdale Rescue the Sims-like kind of game I love, but it involves the beloved characters of my childhood. And I have the control to create the friendships and romances that I prefer in my Archie narrative! Considering all this, I didn’t stand a chance, but at least learned some tips and tricks along the way (I do it all in the name of geek journalism, y’all).

Riverdale Rescue contains 25 levels. You gain a prescribed number of experience points (XP) to unlock each level. After you unlock each level, you have to complete three quests in order to access to the character, their accompanying building, and level-specific quests. Individual buildings contain tasks that range in duration. These tasks are not character specific and some of them require a partner.

Playing on my iPad, I completed all 25 levels in what was probably record time because I can’t “play smartly” or “patiently.”

Each building generates money and XP, as do the quests. Buildings range in how long it takes them to accumulate money and XP. For example, Archie’s house generates money and XP every five minutes while the Haunted House takes 12 hours. XP goes towards moving up levels, and you can use your money to purchase items from the store:

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A screenshot of the inventory tab in the store

The items in the store, besides being fun (and often tacky and disproportionate, which I love), are often required for completing quests, like adding five poplar trees around Riverdale. A little tip: If you already have the decoration or plant needed to complete one of these quests in Riverdale, you can select the item, move it back into your inventory, and then repopulate Riverdale with it. No need to buy new!

Besides the buildings, a good source of money is the planters. There are five total available in the store. The planters have four different types of seeds that your characters can plant to generate more plants that you can either keep or sell.

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A close-up of the planters in my Riverdale’s “community garden”

The price of the seed and duration of growth depend on the type of seed. Additionally, different characters plant different plants, some of which are specific to the character. Some of these character-specific plants can be purchased in the store, but most of them are only available via planting. Most of the characters have about three character specific plants (a flower/rose, shrub/bush, and tree/fence). Generally, you get the flowers/roses from the cheaper seeds and the trees/fences from the more expensive seeds. A little tip: To quickly generate money, start with the orange seeds and sell what you grow. The orange seeds are cheap and take only ten seconds to grow. In most cases, you get anywhere from a small return to a significant return on what you plant. Try and always have planting going on. You will need the additional money and plants for completing the quests and achievements.

Achievements are located by clicking on the star in the bottom, right corner:

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The awards screen

Trees, plants, statues, etc. go towards your Riverdale Rating and completing the achievements in the Riverdale High Yearbook, like placing 20 “unique decorations.” Achievements are also given for unlocking a certain number of land, upgrading a certain number of buildings, etc.

Sometimes though, you can’t buy the plant or decor you need with money; you need sodas instead. You can occasionally earn sodas through completing certain quests, getting relationship bonuses, and clicking on ads, but sodas are generally pretty hard to come by. This is where they get you. Additional sodas have to be purchased with actual money, which of course doesn’t feel like actual money because it’s an electronic transfer from your credit card tied to your iTunes account so you end up clicking away because it doesn’t quite feel real.

Soda packages are available via the soda tab in the store, ranging from $1.99 to $99.99. While Megan P.’s sage advice still stands, obtaining the soda needed for the add-on characters and buildings takes a loooooooong time. Most of the add-ons require 130 sodas, which like I said are hard to come across. Since the only two homosexual characters are available as “add-ons” (I can say much about tokenism right now), I readily threw down money for sodas to obtain Kevin Keller. The other homosexual character, Ginger Lopez (notably: Ginger Lopez is not a lesbian in the Archie-verse with the exception of Afterlife with Archie), came “free” with a soda purchase. I think it’s pretty shitty that the only homosexual characters in the game have to be acquired via soda rather than unlocking levels. A little tip: If you plan to purchase sodas, wait for specials. The game often offers holiday specials including celebration of GLAAD’s Spirit Day (which I appreciate, but still feels token-y).

Let’s talk more about the characters. All in all, there are 36 characters, ten of which are adults (Mr. Weatherbee, Miss Grundy, etc.), and eleven of which are available via add-on. Characters range from the classic Archie gang (Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, Reggie, etc.) to more recent characters like Kevin Keller, Shrill, etc. Each unlock or add-on also reveals the comic featuring the first appearance of said character (with the one exception of Sheila whose comic I can never get to come up):

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A shot of inside the comic book store

This was especially exciting for me because I stopped reading Archie in the mid-90s and have only recently picked it back up. Characters like Kevin, Shrill, Sheila, Toni, etc. are entirely new to me. The comic book store also contains in-game comics that come with a series of quests and full comics that you build by earning individual puzzle pieces. I quickly learned that the digital comic reader available via the Archie site is not iPad friendly. Instead, it’s easier to download the Archie Comics app, which contains a ton of free bonus Archie comics.

Creating couples and BFFs is one of the main purposes of the game and necessary for advancement. With the exception of the adult characters, characters can complete quests together to build relationships. You can also have characters interact by selecting a task that requires two people. Relationships progress as follows:

BFFs: Unfamiliar –> Friends –> Good Friends –> Close Friends –> BFFs

Couple: Unfamiliar –> Friends –> Good Friends –> Flirting –> Couple

Like I said before, Kevin and Ginger are the only two homosexual characters. Several of the other characters are kind of, sort of bisexual, I guess. It’s hard to label them “bi” since they will only hook up with the singular homosexual character, but not the other “bi” characters. So, for example, Nancy will develop romantic relationships with all of the guys (except Kevin) and Ginger. The same is true for Midge, Shrill, Ethel, Sheila, Cricket, Kumi, Maria, Marcy, and Toni. However, I can’t get Midge to hook up with Ethel. Only Ginger. In sum:

Same-sex only: Kevin, Ginger

Bi-ish: Jason, Adam, Chuck, Raj, Frankie, Trev, Midge, Shrill, Nancy, Ethel, Sheila, Cricket, Toni, Kumi, Maria, Marcy

Hetero: Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica, Cheryl, Moose, Reggie, Dilton

Notice a disparity here? There are ten bi-ish female characters to the six bi-ish males. That’s 50% of the male student characters to 71% of the female student characters. This may be “just” a game, but game programming reflects societal attitudes and biases. You tell me how many fictional bi male characters you can think of and compare that with a list of bi female characters. I’ll wait here while you do the math.

Okay, here’s some more math: There are 26 student characters which means I should be able to generate 13 couples; however, since the overall gender composition is 12 males to 14 females of which only two are homosexualthat means I’m left with two unattached female characters. If the bi-ish characters could be actually bi, I could pair off my unattached females. Something to consider in the upgrades, Archie team.

A little tip: Adults do not form relationships so I often used them to upgrade buildings which usually requires two characters after the first upgrade. This left Archie and the gang free to build relationships with each other. Building relationships helps complete certain quests and achievements, and once a relationship is formed, your characters can complete the partner required tasks which generate a variety of bonuses: XP and money bonuses, decor and plants, and sodas. Another little tip: When you first introduce two characters, don’t send them on a long task or quest. Have them complete a shorter task, then move them on to a longer task or quest. The length of the task or quest impacts the relationship except for the first time they meet where the length of the task or quest does not matter.

And finally, quests. Quests are real-time which means if the quest is five minutes then it will take five minutes, if the quest is 196 hours, it will take 196 hours. You can use sodas to rush the quests (which was my financial downfall). Quests are mostly character specific though some are open. Most of the quests involve the older Archie characters rather than the newer ones. Quests range from single event quests to longer narrative quests. The narrative quests contain a series of quests framed within a narrative. Once you complete the narrative quests, you will often receive bonuses like in-game comics, sodas, and puzzle pieces for the full comics.

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A screenshot from a quest. Poor grammar seemed to be a common issue among the Archie characters.

Some of the quests have the option to spin a bonus wheel. These spins cost one soda, but can generate some really cool bonuses like XP, money, relationship, etc. Occasionally, the quests repeat, and eventually you do run out of quests whether you have completed the game or completed all the quests for a certain level. The narratives for the quests are often problematic in that Archie waylike Nancy is studying karate, but she is only doing it to distract Chuck from his constant drawing. Or the romantic narratives only promote same-race hetero relationships. Claire put it well in her review of a Jughead & Archie digest: “Look I thought Archie was HIP now,” and many of the quest narratives felt strangely archaic in their gender dynamics.

After completing all 25 levels, the only thing really left to do is to wait for updates so you can play more quests. The upgrades usually occur around holidays and are holiday-themed. You get holiday specific quests, decor and plants, and clothing.

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The Halloween upgrade included a purple haunted house and various spooky decor such as the Andrews family mausoleum.

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The Winter Holiday upgrade included a building and decor related to Betty’s Gingerbread Company. You earned the decor by collecting the creepy gingerbread people constantly running around.

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The Winter Holiday upgrade also included falling snowflakes.

Oh right, I forgot about the clothing! You can also earn or purchase clothing from the clothing tab in the store. Other than being fun and cute, clothing really isn’t that big of deal, but there are a few achievements related to clothing. You rarely see your characters walking the neighborhood in their outfits unless they are not on a quest or walking one of the Archie pets. I’d recommend saving your money and XP for add-on characters and buildings.

Some more tips:

  • Each day, you check on the game, you get the opportunity to play a slots style game where you can win a variety of bonuses. The amount of free spins you get depends on the day. You can also access this game via Archie’s Home with the task “Set Archie’s Alarm Clock.” But if you do that, you have to use one soda for every spin.
  • You can access the Riverdale Times which contains game updates and announcements via the task “Newspaper Issue #2” in Archie’s garage.
  • The BigFish Riverdale Rescue forums are really helpful because not a lot is explained in the game itself.
  • The game is very touch sensitive. I often ended up purchasing or doing things I didn’t mean to by getting too trigger happy.
  • Jon Trouten has some great coverage of Riverdale Rescue on his blog.

If you enjoy these Sims-type games and your Archie comics then Riverdale Rescue is totally for you, but remember to “play smartly” and “patiently” lest you blow far too much money on your credit card and wind up plagued by guilt.

Do you play Riverdale Rescue? Do you have a control problem when it comes to these types of games? Go ahead, share your thoughts in the comments section. C’mon, I fessed up! It’s cathartic.

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