|Platforms||PC (reviewed), PS4, XBO|
|Release Date||May 26, 2017|
Review code provided
RiME is a puzzle solving adventure game that casts players as a young boy who washes up on a mysterious island after a torrential storm. Stretching out in front of him is a colourful landscape filled with wild animals, ancient ruins and plenty of secrets to uncover. With the help of a magical fox, you’ll need to guide the boy through this island and to the top of the tower on a mind-bending adventure.
RiME is a very enigmatic game. It’s a gorgeous watercolour painting come to life, backed by a vibrant world filled with meaningful collectables to find and backed by a truly stupendous soundtrack. Everything about the first few moments you spend with the game is inviting. You’ve been dropped off on a relatively small but open island that looks amazing and has a ton of things for you to find.
The further into the game I progressed, however, I couldn’t shake the ever growing feeling that RiME was very much a case of style over substance. There’s no denying that the game is a beautiful one and I never grew tired of looking at it. Exploring its lush woods, barren wastelands and sunken villages was a visual treat. But RiME has a series of problems and design decisions that ultimately make this a beautifully hollow experience.
The puzzles that form the majority of the core gameplay are thoroughly unengaging. There’s almost no challenge to them and they require very little actual thinking to continue progress. Environmental traversal puzzles exist in RiME. In theory they should challenge you to find new ways to explore the environment, testing your skills of perception and platforming.
They don’t. Paths are always heavily signposted and finding your way around RiME is so easy as to be completely automatic. A section involving navigating your way around an unfriendly bird by utilising a crumbling environment is as easy as following the one, highly visible path while things happen around you. It gives you a feeling of going through the motions, rather than being a compelling or interesting section of gameplay in its own right.
And RiME is unfortunately littered with sections such as that. Puzzle solving is shallow, rarely requiring much effort of thought from you and seemingly only used to keep you from walking straight from point A to point Z. Obstacles for the sake of obstacles. There are some interesting ideas in some of RiME’s puzzles. Anything involving light, dark and the manipulation of shadows seems interesting on the surface level. But the execution is lacking.
Platforming itself isn’t helped by a camera that has a habit of misbehaving, controls that have a habit of feeling fiddly rather than fluid and a wobbly framerate that spent a lot of time constantly juddering. Getting the camera pointed where you want it can be a challenge when you’re indoors, with walls turning out to be one of the game’s greatest enemies in your quest for progress.
RiME also has a strange relationship with movement. Jumping and grabbing the edges of specifically marked platforms frequently takes two attempts. The game’s protagonist has a fairly pathetic jumping height, which is fair enough, but when you approach a grabbable ledge he’ll jump a little higher. But for some reason he’ll only make the higher jump on the second attempt a lot of the time.
I also ran into an issue of not knowing which direction I would move when hanging onto ledges. Pushing forward to climb up would regularly see the kid shuffle left or right. Attempting to perform a backwards jump onto a ledge by pushing the appropriate direction button might well see him climb up. It’s nothing game breaking and it doesn’t trip you up massively, but it happens with such a regular occurrence to be thoroughly annoying.
There’s also never really any context for why you’re doing the things that you do. Whereas the game’s that RiME takes inspiration from always had obvious goals for you to reach, that’s not always the case here. Oftentimes I found myself pushing forward simply because I was playing a video game and that’s what you do, rather than to progress a story or reach an obvious landmark.
RiME’s story is incredibly minimalist. There are paintings depicted on various surfaces throughout the four worlds you’ll visit, usually giving you hints as to where to go next. There’s also the rare flashback and some images you can unlock via collectables that fill in the protagonists backstory, but there’s nothing here to really lend context or weight to the journey you’re on. As far as narrative or context goes, RiME gives you nothing to grab onto (pun intended).
I can’t deny there are many moments of beauty in RiME, thanks to the gorgeous visuals and stunningly excellent soundtrack. The different worlds you explore throughout the game are breathtaking. Sections such as navigating a dark and deadly labyrinth, where you must ignite torches by singing at them, are great. But they’re also few and far between, showing us the game RiME could have been rather than the one we ultimately got.
RiME is a beautiful game. There’s no denying that its visuals are stunning and the soundtrack is fantastic. The presentation is spot on. Unfortunately the game that lies within this audiovisual marvel is lacking. There are brief flashes of excellence – certain puzzles have interesting ideas and the game will (very rarely) put its mechanics to great use.
But it’s hamstrung by a lack of meaningful, engaging gameplay. The puzzles that should form the core of the experience feel like padding. Just a bit of time wasting to make sure you’ve got something to do. Platforming and exploration are harmed by iffy controls and framerate issues. There’s no real struggle or challenge to RiME’s puzzles and exploration, leaving the game with a distinct lack of weight.
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