For fans of abstract puzzler games, there are now a wealth of titles available, each with their own unique and sometimes emotional narrative experiences. Tequila Works’ RiME joins the likes of Journey, Abzu and Bound to bring you the tale of a young child, shipwrecked on an island for an explorative adventure. Following years of production, RiME finally arrived for audiences to enjoy at the end of May and if you saw our EGX Rezzed coverage, you’ll know that it was a title that had us wanting more.
The first thing that you will realise about RiME is that the art style is pretty stunning. Although cartoon like its delivery, it has the Studio Ghibli feel and to a certain degree, Ico or the more recent Legend of Zelda titles that makes it fit right in to the genre well. It is beautiful to look at and I thoroughly enjoyed exploring as many areas of this Mediterranean island as possible, even if they were dark and eerie, just to fully appreciate every nook and cranny the developers had put in. Everything has a purpose and isn’t left in the game to make you second guess what you need to do to solve puzzles and continue your exploration of the island. Even the trees with fruit to feed the local wildlife have a purpose which distracted me for a few minutes as I hoped a trophy would pop if I fed enough of them. With a soundtrack to compliment the art and feel of the game, it is a beautiful composition with only a few minor hiccups along the way.
The island is like something out of a dream as it seems to expand as you discover new areas. The impossibly large tower that you are trying to get to has ‘rooms’ which provide more puzzles to solve while putting together the pieces of Enu’s story of how he came to be on the island following many sightings of a mysterious figure in a red cape who you will attempt to follow and catch up to. The initial ‘tutorial’ tells you that you can climb, jump, lift and use your voice in different ways to affect statues and other items around you. By unleashing a loud ‘ha’, you can cause a statue to emit an orb of light which will act as a switch for something else. It isn’t a complicated mechanic and after a while you will repeat this multiple times and in slightly different ways in order to progress. In the tutorial, you’ll be doing this in order to unlock your guide, a cute little fox who will try and help you along the way by pointing you where you need to go. While it won’t help you with the puzzles that much, if you linger in an area for too long, it will pop up to yap at you and beckon you to follow. I liked the little cutscene moments with the fox as they were nice little moments just warm the heart a little before reminding you that you still don’t know what this island is or how you got there!
The puzzles don’t really intensify but the areas themselves become more challenging towards the middle. Suddenly there’s a large bird that wants to capture you, so you must figure out a way of unleashing a powerful storm while avoiding the birds grasp. It might sound easy, but as a small child with no sprint button and limited cover, you’ll have to use your cunning in order to get through. Fortunately, the game doesn’t punish you too much for dying and it tends to put back where you died, giving you an opportunity to try things a different way. The best thing is to be on the look-out for anything that might help, be it a moveable block, an orb of light or a hidden statue that you need to uncover in order to move on. There’s not a lot there to trip you up other than yourself, if you head the wrong way or miss something, it will frustrate you for a few moments before you realise your error. I only had head scratching moments once or twice but when I worked it out, it seemed obvious. You are limited to what Enu can do as, afterall, he is a child and not a super mutant who can just smash down walls or emit light from his eyes. In that sense, the puzzles aren’t overly complex as you would need to be able to complete them with limited motion. There’s a section in the middle where you needed to combine a few things, but after this, it felt as though the puzzle element fell away slightly and focused more on just getting you to the conclusion. I wasn’t disappointed as such, but felt that it was building up to something more complex for the final area.
Along the way, you not only get your fox guide, but also a sentinel who will help you through a portion of the tower. These ‘characters’ are your only friends on the island and eventually, you will realise that they can’t stay forever. Similarly to Abzu, I found myself being emotionally drawn in without meaning to. After just enjoying the game for what it is, an exploratory puzzler, I neglected to think that it would suck me into the deeper meaning of the story. I won’t give anything away, but you will come to realise what has happened to result in you being in this somewhat magical place and it will explain some of the little things that have gone before and, if you’re an emotional wreck like me who gets sucked into stories like this, you may be touched by the outcome. Some may find the story obvious, but I think overall is was delivered well if not in an abstract sort of way.
As for the gameplay, I only had a few little niggles. These were mainly to do with the camera panning around occasionally so that I couldn’t see where I was jumping towards or climbing, other times in the ledge jumping itself when I would shimmy back and forth instead of turning to reach the ledge behind me. Small things which I can forgive as plenty of other games have these issues and they are only frustrating for a few fleeting moments. I’m in a slight quandary as to whether I wanted more from the game. It has the replay factor for those who want to find all of the collectibles and get all of the trophies and you don’t lose your progress by selecting a stage once you have completed your first run through. For 6-10 hours worth of gameplay, RiME is enjoyable if you want to do everything but if you only want to go from start to finish without worrying about anything else, you could get it down to 3 ½ hours or so. The length doesn’t bother me personally, but in a world where you can’t win if you make something too short or too long, some folks may wish it was longer or had more to offer. You won’t hear that complaint from myself as I spend 15 minutes trying to get to a collectible because I couldn’t find the way through so I’ll be playing for extra hours.
Overall, RiME is a beautiful game. Aside from the little issues and the puzzle element fading away slightly towards the end, I enjoyed the game as a whole. The music and use of sound worked so well with the lovely art work and drew me in without really needing to try too hard. It isn’t a complicated game and is most definitely better described as a story with a puzzler aspect and encouraged exploration. I find a lot of indie titles in my collection fit into the same sort of category as RiME and have the ability to make me feel moved in just a few short hours without necessarily leave me feeling disappointed that it ended, but glad that I took the time to play it. If you find yourself with a free afternoon, RiME would be a good title to fill it and maybe even come back to if you aren’t ready to leave the island behind. RiME is currently available on Steam, Xbox One and PS4 with the Nintendo Switch version due for release soon.
Our thanks to Indigo Pearl for providing Darkworld Gaming with a review code for PS4.