In RIME, the puzzle/platformer hybrid from Tequila Works announced a whopping three years ago, there are no extravagant guns, melee attacks or even simple instructions. RIME is a lesson in ephemeral melancholy, tasking players to divert themselves from the hustle and bustle of life and rather easily journey through numerous beautifully rendered locations while giving chase to a mysterious red-hooded figure.
As RIME begins, a violent storm results in a young boy being shipwrecked on a picture-perfect island. There is no explanation of who the boy is, what the island is, or even what to do next. As if shipwrecked in real life, players must rely on eyesight alone to determine a next move, and the move after that, and so on.
At the heart of RIME are numerous familiar puzzles seen in other games relying on visual cues, perspective, block pushing, yelling – the boy’s only “action” – and the manipulation of light in order to solve. None are particularly difficult or require any semblance of intense brainpower to solve; in fact, younger kids should be able to figure the majority out. Only accidentally missing a pulsating object or pathway might slow forward procession.
Timid difficulty actually works to RIME‘s advantage, believe it or not. If the puzzles were obnoxiously complex then the melancholy mood – the relaxation and distraction from chaotic life achieved – would be shattered by frustration. Dramatically moving the blood pressure needle is not at all what this boy’s journey across the island is about.
Tequila Works originally began designing RIME as an open world game. During development those plans were scrapped, though their ghost remains in each of the four main sections to mask perception.
Apart from small paths that lead to a variety of hidden collectibles, RIME is a decidedly linear game near impossible to get lost in despite its cleverly drawn expansive visuals telling you otherwise. Even if you do get turned around in a few of the more open areas, a cute fox companion is quick to bark and point the way.
While RIME does a decent job of avoiding excessive backtracking and puzzle redundancy, it does suffer from the occasional frame-rate drop and wonky camera when working in tight quarters. These issues aren’t deal breakers; more like hiccups that quickly come and go. They do seem odd given the three-year development cycle that should have resolved any lingering issues.
Through its orchestral score and design that evokes ICO, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and other similarly drawn games, RIME aims to subvert the pervasive shoot first, ask questions later trend in gaming to offer a deeper emotional experience. It takes completing the roughly six-hour adventure full of walking, climbing and swimming to fully achieve this with a twist ending that questions everything before it.
I’m unsure whether RIME is worth revisiting with the ending’s information in mind and collectibles waiting to be found. Moving on to the next similarly designed game is more appealing. Even so, I’m glad to have experienced the haunting beauty of RIME at least once and satisfied it manages to stand on its own despite culling inspiration from other similar games.
RIME was reviewed on PS4 using a code provided by the publisher.
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