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Rime Review

by William Schwartz

Rime’s road to release has been an odd one.  At points in its conception it was funded by two of the biggest platform holders in Microsoft and Sony, and now neither of the two have exclusive rights to the game.  Tequila Works, a developer out of Spain who’s probably best known for their survival horror game called Deadlight has something completely new and different in Rime, and at some point in the development of the game, realized they had something special on their hands.  Rime is an adventure/puzzle game that’s due out on just about every platform where people play games.  That’s probably for the best.  Rime is the type of game that a lot of people can enjoy.  Some will enjoy it for its sheer beauty, amazing art style and colorful visuals. Some may enjoy the many puzzles and collectibles to find.  Others may fall in the love with the game’s ambiguous story and thought provoking conclusion.  Many will enjoy it for the way it combines all of this into a compact, palatable adventure.

You play as Enu, waking up alone on a mysterious Mediterranean island with very little information to go on in terms of how you got there, who you are, and what your purpose is.  There’s very little by way of story or exposition in the onset of Rime.  In fact, there’s very little throughout the entire game.  All you know is that you’ve been shipwrecked during a storm at sea.  Upon awakening you’ll be shadowed by cloaked red figure and joined by a companion fox.  The journey you’re about to embark on is to learn the story and the fate of Enu.  The way that Tequila Works tells this story is without words, explained entirely through visuals and music.

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This presentation in Rime is incredible.  Let’s get that out in the open right up front.  Playing on the PlayStation 4 Pro, Rime is right up there with the very best in terms of the sights and sounds of the game.   It’s simply a treat to look at and listen to.  Eventhough it’s incredibly vague at its onset, and doesn’t reveal much about the mysterious island until much later on in the game, the presentation in itself is enough to keep you pushing forward.  At its core, however, Rime is a puzzle game.  This is the gameplay mechanic that’ll gate your progression throughout this adventure.

Rime is presented beautifully, but it also thoughtfully teaches you its mechanics without ever saying a word.  Occasionally you’ll get a button prompt to help you, but you’ll also have a companion in the game (a fox), that will become available after you solve the first puzzle you encounter.  Rime never tells you exactly what to do, your fox is but a suggestive guide.  Better said, your goals in Rime feel intuitive. The game never feels overwhelming and always gives you just enough direction to get you to your next objective or puzzle.  The puzzles can get complex at times, but never in a way that feels aggrivating.  In Rime you progressively learn that everything is color coded or labeled in some way to guide you towards your goals.  This goes a long way in giving you all the information about what you need to do to progress without spelling it out for you.  Jade statues for example, are always able to be interacted with by using your voice.  Blocks you can move are always the same in terms of their markings and shape.  Ledges you can climb are marked in white, while items that can be picked up and used are typically golden or glowing yellow.  Once you learn the unspoken language of Rime, the puzzles are fun to solve, and progression is paced well.

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You’ll use a variety of things to solve puzzles in Rime — the sound of your voice, the use of light and reflections, shadows, perspective, platforming, climbing and the manipulation of time.  It seems for the first half of the game that Tequila Works had plenty in their arsenal to throw at the player, keeping the experience fresh with each new challenge. That said, the first four or five hours of Rime are magical.  There’s no doubting that.  It all comes together incredibly well, but there’s a general feeling of constraint that starts to tighten in the late game.  Puzzles start lacking in challenge and it feels like the run to the finale is a downhill sprint of climbing puzzles instead of the learning experience that the front half of the game is.  But even then, the sprint is worth it because you’re starting to feel the payoff coming.

Unfortunately, I can’t talk about that payoff and the ending of Rime, this is something best left for the player to discover.  Rime’s ending is one that you don’t quite see coming and could be one of the game’s finest points.  Otherwise I wouldn’t even mention it here, but I believe it’s substantive to the score of this game.  In an industry that’s bent on cliffhanger endings, Rime’s is so much different.  It makes you think, it leaves you with questions.  It makes you feel something about the journey that you’ve just taken in ways that few games do.  I think that’s because it’s so vague in terms of story for so much of the game, leaning heavily on the fact that you’re enjoying the puzzles and taking in the sights and sounds of the island.  Unfortunately, an important aspect of the game ends up being the collectibles, and you don’t realize this until the very end.

Rime First Impressions Gameplay Video

https://youtu.be/mk9bTA08KUA

For some that might be a good thing.  I know that I enjoyed Rime enough to go back in to collect the items that I missed in my first playthrough.  And in doing so I felt that everything that I had enjoyed on the first go round took on a different meaning.  The beauty of the world, the importance of the collectibles, the music — everything felt more meaningful on this second playthrough and that’s a pretty tough task that very few games have accomplished with me and I think that’s due to the impactful ending.  Perhaps this impact isn’t felt by everyone that plays Rime, it’s certainly a game that leaves itself open to some interpretation.

Regardless, for some players, they aren’t going to want to double back and play again.  For myself,  I just had to.  If there was only some way that the developers could have let you know that the collectibles of the game were more meaningful to its conclusion it could’ve had an even bigger impact on me and my enjoyment of the game on my first play through.  Nevertheless, a game as beautiful and thoughtful as this was no chore to play again.

The Verdict

Rime is a competent puzzler, but its real strengths are in its ability to draw emotions from the player using the combination of great art, music, and a thought provoking ending.

"loved"
loved

  • Available On: PS4, XB1, Switch, PC
  • Published By: Grey Box
  • Developed By: Tequila Works
  • Genre: Adventure/Puzzle
  • US Release Date: May 26th, 2017
  • Reviewed On: PlayStation 4 Pro
  • Quote: "Rime is a competent puzzler, but its real strengths are in its ability to draw emotions from the player using the combination of great art, music, and a thought provoking ending."
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