Posted 13 Nov 2017 at 20:06 by Ashley Jones
RiME has had an interesting time (had to). Unveiled as a PS4 exclusive originally its art style and gameplay drew many comparisons to The Legend of Zelda, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. It has since dropped its PS4 exclusivity and is now on the Switch and it suits the console’s portability as it feels like a getaway in itself.
You wake up as a young boy washed up on an island. Unlike many other adventure games your only ‘weapon’ is your voice, using it to activate mysterious totems dotted around the land and this really sets it apart. There’s no violence or imminent sense of danger for most of the game, instead you are left to curiously explore the island.
As the storyline progresses there is a greater sense of immediacy, but even so you can find quiet moments to just explore. The fact that when you have nothing to shout out the button lets out a gentle whistle instead speaks volumes (pun intended) about the nature of Rime.
RiME’s art direction is stunning and although there may be graphical and technical issues, they are endurable because of how engrossing the world is. It feels like a lost island in the Dodecanese with music that brings to mind Studio Ghibli for its use of dramatic strings and quiet ambience. The graphics give a painterly effect to the scenes and the strange landmarks and increasingly surreal story help give the game a dream-like feeling. I found myself taking a lot of screenshots as I progressed because there were so many beautiful vistas and images.
After a bit of initial exploring you come across a fox, who soon acts as your guide (note: I love foxes so this was fantastic). For the remainder of the game they will appear in the distance gently guiding you in the direction you need to travel in order to progress. Other than this there is very little hand-holding and you are left to your own devices to figure out how to progress.
Like all good exploration games the mechanics are introduced gently to get you used to them, twisted slightly to challenge your perception before being used in combination with others as you progress. It is easy to draw parallels with The Witness, after all both games are island-set puzzle titles. However, RiME is more like the Zelda series than anything else as the puzzles are environmental and part of navigating the landscape (and there’s certainly far less than The Witness, but that’s not difficult).
Most of the puzzles are about the use of light, shadow and perception. You have to line up items to project light (and by extension shadows) in certain areas, or block paths of light with items and sometimes look through a ‘keyhole’ to line up items. As I mentioned earlier, the island’s architecture is quite similar to the Dodecanese islands and the use of arches as structures as gateways reminded me a lot of The Temple of Apollo in Naxos (can you tell that I really want to go on holiday again?)
The game itself is relatively short. You can probably complete it in around 7 hours if you just want to get through the storyline. I ended up completing most of it in one afternoon as I got sucked up in the story - which must be said is told entirely environmentally and might be one of the best environmental stories since Journey. I won’t give away the details, but there is a wider story in RiME that touches upon some very human ideas and adds more depth to the narrative.
There are numerous items and outfits to collect if you wish, and once you complete the game you can jump to certain points in the game to go find them. There is also a suite of achievements to unlock, each with its own beautiful bit of artwork to accompany them.
Unfortunately there are technical issues that run throughout RiME. The most noticeable is framerate drops. There is rarely a lot going on at any one time, but the game can struggle and drop some frames. Thankfully it doesn’t have much of an impact on gameplay, but it is certainly prominent (it even occurred during the credits). I didn’t feel like it negatively affected my enjoyment, but it is a shame that these seem to be issues that have persisted across the various versions. Other minor things also crop up, such as getting stuck in place and needing to jump out or some clipping.
Overall the game is a great short experience with a terrific atmosphere and a surprisingly affecting story. The puzzles were never frustratingly obtuse, although there was a section towards the end that sucked out the momentum it had picked up until that point unfortunately. RiME is a game that manages to generally push things forward at a good pace, both narratively and in terms of gameplay.
The ability to take the game on the go is a great benefit to the Switch version, although unfortunately at times there are sections which are dark enough that it becomes difficult to see on the Switch’s screen if you are sitting in anything other than a dark room. If you are in the mood for a ‘gentle’ puzzle game that is fun to explore then I recommend RiME.
N-Europe Final Verdict
A beautiful and well told game that offers a concise and enjoyable story without sacrificing gameplay mechanics.
Fantastic art style and music