There are certain things that you just can’t put into words. You know that feeling you get while out walking and a certain smell reminds you of something from your childhood? Or a specific piece of music that you chance upon makes your eyes water a bit, as you hope no one else notices you welling up? Well that feeling is RiME.
Developer Tequila Works have had their pet project RiME hanging around in different forms since 2013. First it was a PlayStation exclusive, then an Xbox exclusive and finally a multi platform release title. It started out as an open world game, then became much more linear in its approach. Most games that go through a troubled development process don’t have a happy ending… but there are exceptions. Thankfully.
You play as a small boy who wakes washed up on a deserted, sun drenched island. There are animals and ancient monuments for you to see, and strange runes etched into the white granite. You can move around, pick up objects, sing, shout and jump. There are no tutorials to help you on the way, but you don’t need to worry because everything about the game feels intuitive and simple – the camera has a subtle trick of turning its gaze in the direction of where you need to go. There are cliff edges with white around them to indicate where you need to jump, and shafts of light pointing to the heavens to show when things need to collecting. You can pull blocks and use them as stepping-stones or trigger devices to unlock doors.
Soon you summon a mysterious magical fox to help you on your journey. This fox barks to let you know which direction to go and this is a great help as you progress through the large colourful world. The game has clear influences from others, with the platform action adventure and puzzle tools it employs. Ico, The Last Guardian, Journey and more recently Zelda: Breath of the Wild are obvious connections to the gameplay, tone and shape of the game. But of course it treads its own very unique path through all these influences and comes out the other end as something very special indeed. There have been some criticism of those direct influences from others, but I say if it’s okay to have a hundred first person shooters on the market, a couple of games like this must be a good thing.
The game is sublime to play and explore. You’ll find that you don’t want to rush through RiME because your time with it is joyfully precious; like a little holiday. There are also many secrets to find that will unlock achievements galore on your second or third playthrough, if you are that way inclined.
With a normal playthrough, RiME should take you around five to six hours to complete. And what a time you will have. It feels like a really old fashioned adventure with puzzles, platforms and escaping death from a really big bird. There are lush underwater sections, soulful rain drenched chapters and beautiful sun blessed grass at your feet stages. You don’t fight at all, but run and hide if needed. If you die, you get placed back to the moment of death and start again. This doesn’t feel like a cheat or a hindrance to your experience, because the journey is the most important part of the game. And what a journey it is…
RiME tells a story without words that is funny, sad, deeply emotive and beautiful. It says more to the player than a thousand words could describe, and it pulls on your heartstrings with an amazingly poignant climax to the game. I challenge that the steeliest of hearts won’t soften a bit. The story touches on themes of loss, love, and wonder, all done through emotion, atmosphere and design.
My personal highlight is with the two-legged guardians of the world, marching stoically towards the big tower. Or the black hooded creatures watching you in some kind of amphitheatre. Or….well, there are so many personal highlights I’ve had with RIME that I’ve lost count. I’m looking forward to experiencing it all again too.
The world Tequila Works have created is gorgeous. Lush landscapes, deep green seas, blue skies and lizards floating across white washed walls. The architecture of the buildings and the level design is sublime, mixing the familiar and the magical to great effect. There is a feeling of dream all around you, making you want to not miss out on anything you see. The cut scenes are heartbreaking at times and work very well in the story.
In the sound department you have a stunning soundtrack by David Garcia Diaz. This opus soars, dips and roars in tandem with the game peaks and emotional low points. It’s a brilliant piece of work.
In conclusion, RiME is a game that feels perfect to play, from the very start right up to the epic finish. It is a majestic, powerful and emotional journey that I enjoyed so much that I will play it again, almost instantly. That in itself is a very rare thing. Some might say it’s a tad short, but for me the length of the package as a whole is perfect for the price. Some might also say it borrows too heavily from other games in its genre, but I would counter that it references them before forging its own path.
RiME is a beautiful thing and is something you must play. Simple.