Review – RiME
RiME is a pretty special experience. Part platformer, part puzzle-game, part mystery, RiME ensnared me early on and didn’t let me go until it had finished everything it had to say.
It’s a tranquilly turbulent journey across the island that RiME calls home. The sun, and water all beckon the silent boy, lost and looking for a way home. Not entirely alone, but practically so, the boy discovers animal friend and foe alike.
Some will guide him, some will run in fear and others will try to take away that which is most precious; his life.
RiME has echoes of many games from the past few years; Journey, The Witness, ICO. In reality though, it truly is its own special brand of adventure.
Learn By Doing
RiME is without tutorials, mission markers or objectives. I knew nothing of it when I started playing, but such was the skill and success of the design, that I quickly found my way. I learned that some objects and walls could be climbed, while others couldn’t. Some objects could be interacted with and some couldn’t. RiME teaches you how to play, by letting you play.
The more you experiment with the world of RiME, the greater enjoyment you’ll have. That’s not to say it’s similar to something like Breath of the Wild. RiME comes with a very narrow focus, but one which maximises the player’s enjoyment of the slowly unravelling mystery.
The first few puzzles encountered are obvious and simple. In a way that’s communicated through sounds and visuals, not words and instructions. Over time, the puzzles grow more intricate, more complex, but the language of RiME never falters. I found it rare that I was unsure of what I needed to do. Rather, I knew what my goal was, I just hadn’t quite worked out how to get there.
Escape From Your Escape
For the most part, at least initially, the island is a benign and friendly place. The boy isn’t really threatened by any wildlife or natural architecture. The sun shines across the colourful island, revealing a beautifully crafted place. The designers at Tequila Works have obviously worked incredibly hard to make RiME as unmistakably lovely as it is. However, all is not as it seems.
As with most locations that are breathtaking on the surface, dark secrets lurk below. This is true of RiME. The further I explored, the darker the island became. Enemies appeared and tried desperately to extinguish my fragile life. The sun shone less and I found myself exploring underground places. Long abandoned places, now filled only with the ghosts of the past and painful memories.
Each new location revealed something about the island and its inhabitants, but more importantly, something of the boy. His demeanour changed as I played. First happy, oblivious and carefree. Gradually though, he changed to worried, frightened, saddened and defeated. That’s not to say that the ultimate goal of this journey is defeat. But it’s certainly one that I found emotionally taxing.
On more than once occasion RiME brought the hot sting of salty tears to my eyes. Wordlessly and skillfully, RiME played on my emotions using only the boy’s face and the music.
Perfection in Sound
It’s hard to call any one part of RiME my favourite, but the sound design is simply incredible. The vocalisations of the boy and his companion somehow say more than real words. As do the ambient sounds of the island, it’s forests and oceans and caves. The sound design is hugely important in learning how to traverse the island and uncover its many secrets.
The sound effects are surpassed though by the absolutely spectacular soundtrack. If the boy’s expressions made me smile, the music made me crack a wide grin. If his sad eyes made me teary, the music made me weep. It’s a wonderful series of compositions that use quiet combinations instruments. The soundtrack swells and fades in response to the action on-screen and with it so did my heart.
I don’t mean to oversell it, but RiME is the most emotionally satisfying journey I’ve taken in a video game in a long time. There’s a nuance to the plot and pacing that often gets overlooked in gaming. But RiME nails it from start to finish. There’s always something just up ahead or out of reach. Something to push you forward and the ultimate payoff, makes every moment that came before truly worth it.
The Island is a Special Place
It’s difficult to go into much detail without ruining the experience of RiME. It’s best played without prior knowledge, without expectations and with an open mind. The less prepared you are, the more you’ll get from the experience.
Tequila Works has created a game that’s breathtaking in every way. It’s come, almost out of nowhere, and it’s managed to delight and surprise me in more ways than I care to count. It’s not the longest game, but should take you somewhere between the 10 and 12 hour mark on your first playthrough. To get the full experience, you’ll want to play through at least one more time.
Aside from the plot and exploring the island, a range of collectibles await the most ardent hunters. They do add to the overall package, but if you miss them, you’ll still do fine.
A complete and utter surprise package, RiME is brilliant. Emotionally charged and engaging, I was sucked into RiME’s mystery and was devastated when it was over. Luckily, that just means I get to play it again.
RiME was reviewed on PS4 using a digital download code provided to PowerUp! by the publisher.
Game title: RiME
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