Since its inception at Gamescon 2013, Rime has left a feeling of intrigue, wonder and excitement in minds of many video game fans. Despite the anticipation it had immediately gained, Rime looked to be another game which promised so much on stage but would be unable to deliver. Fraught with development issues from gameplay overhauls to losing exclusive publishing rights with Sony, the end looked near. Thanks to Tequila Works re-acquisition of it’s intellectual property rights, Rime is a game I’m glad we all have the opportunity to journey through.
You play as a non-binary 8-year-old named Enu who’s somehow been washed up upon a mysterious island. With your distinctive red cape and fox companion you’ll traverse your way through four distinct locations in an attempt to reveal the mystery hidden within the looming, keyhole shaped tower that seizes your attention when you enter the game
There’s no real story to Rime and like all games which have taken inspiration from the revered Fumito Ueda, it chooses to explain very little to the player in the hope that they come up with their own interpretations. This type of unwritten story telling can pay off massively when utilised correctly – games such as Inside and Journey have proven that – but Rime’s utilisation of this technique falls short of the mark due to the conflict between it’s utilisation of imagery and metaphor. The ending feels especially abrupt and just as you feel you’re about to uncover another piece of the puzzle, it’s taken away from you and all is laid bare – leaving you wondering whether you truly knew what was happening all along.
For a game that tries to immerse you in a world that feels both lifelike and magical, Rime excels at making the environment feel organic and as if it could exist in a plateau between the two. It’s main gameplay mechanics unsurprisingly revolve around exploration, platforming and puzzle solving. The latter utilizes noise, object moving, energy sources and the manipulation of the day/night cycle to create keys from its subsequent shadows as the main barrier to progression.
I rarely yearn for a game to be more punishing or crave experiencing a higher level of difficulty but Rime holds your hand as if you were an actual 8-year old. The game is far too undemanding due to the lack of diversity when it comes to puzzle solving and their further lack of complexity as the game progresses. These elements are initially fun but once you’ve learned their trick it’s often a one-turn solution when you inevitably come across a similar task again.
Rime’s distinct lack of difficult enemies means that you look towards its utilisation of puzzles to fill this void and while it doesn’t have the obtuse difficulty curve of a game like The Witness, it feels devoid of any real sense of game-progressing achievement due to the ease at which its story is navigated as a result. This is meant to be a tale of a lone child within a foreign and sometimes hostile land but it often ends up feeling like a walk in the park.
Quite simply put, Rime is a visual masterpiece. Taking artwork cues from Thatgamecompany’s Journey and The Witness by Thekla Inc, Tequila Works’ use of cel-shading combined with a pastel colour palette has done just about enough to differentiate the magical and sometimes hopeless world of Rime from it’s contemporaries. As Sebastian Barbarito said, “the difference between mediocrity and excellence is attention to detail”. This rings especially true within Rime. From the lush greens utilised within the game’s vegetation to the worn and ancient chalk whites used within the building design, Rime’s art direction acts as a mode of transportation to this most believable fairyland.
In terms of performance, the game provides a steady experience throughout its 6-8 hour story. Only twice within the game – particularly when travelling between one large expanse to another – did I experience substantial frame rate issues in which it dropped below 30 frames per second.
Along with its beautiful aesthetics, Rime’s composition is another area of pure delight. Tequila Works have been incredibly inventive in this regard, choosing to neglect spoken narrative in favour of emotive layers of music to convey to the player what might be happening with regards to the plot. Composed by David Garcia, the score sets a whimsical tone for the game and evolves magically as you progress through each of the four acts. Each act has its own distinct overture which ties in well with the themes experienced throughout the game. The truly impressive thing about the soundtrack is how it avoids conveying a sense of outright hopelessness to the player; there’s always a glimmer of optimism embedded within the score whether they’re being played by woodwind, string or percussion instruments (with the former being a distinct standout). It’s truly a testament to the composer and developer that a game shrouded in such narrative ambiguity helps propel it into a genuinely great experience. Quite simply, it speaks that which is not spoken.
As a result of the wonderfully crafted visuals, soundtrack, and unwritten story telling Rime exposes you to a plethora of feelings you don’t experience within an ordinary game. Rime’s ability to do so when there’s so obviously developmental scarring lurking beneath it’s surface is testament to the world Tequila Works have managed to create. Games like Journey, The Witness and Inside are industry defining titles which only appear every few years or so and whilst Rime doesn’t quite reach the dizzying heights of it’s predecessors, the fact that it is even being compared to them is proof enough that it’s a worthy spiritual successor within one of the most unique genres in gaming.