Developer TequilaWorks isn’t the most prolific indie developer, but they are well respected in my book. The first game of theirs I played, Deadlight, was one of the best Xbox 360 Arcade games to ever release (in my opinion, anyhow). RiME is a very different game from the aforementioned zombie-centric sidescrolling platformer. Instead, RiME is more reminiscent of games like Journey and Abzu. Playing a small boy named Enu, you and your fox companion will explore vast worlds full of danger, mystery, and wonder. Does RiME rival the quality of Journey, or lose itself in the abstract?
Ruins of RiME
I can’t speak much on the overall narrative of RiME, as most of it is drenched in symbolism. Furthermore, RiME doesn’t present its story as the main focus, but rather something you unfold as you go along. The game contains no dialogue or text, and most of the story is inferred from the environments. At the centerpiece of RiME is a giant tower; one that spirals up and up. At any given time (with some exceptions), you can usually find a glimpse of the tower.
What RiME lacks in narrative content, it makes up for in visual splendor. The game is broken up into several worlds, each visually unique and thematic. Early areas evoke The Witness in style of texturing and use of colors, but as the game progresses, so does the color palette. These worlds are large areas full of puzzles and platforming, and ripe for exploration. Your fox companion will appear and make sure you head in the correct direction if you get lost, but for the most part, RiME doesn’t really hold your hand. The game has a relaxing aesthetic, and isn’t very difficult to navigate. With a combination of flowing orchestral music and impressive lighting systems, RiME ends up looking pretty good, all things considered.
RiME isn’t a very difficult game to play, nor are puzzles within it very hard. The gameplay reflects the style, and although there are several tense moments in the game, most of it is rather relaxing. Venturing off the beaten path rewards you with collectibles, but often the reward is the view itself. The game doesn’t concern itself with many mechanics, but rather building itself around a few. Enu can shout, pickup and pull items, and do a bit of platforming. Beyond that, his abilities are limited. There’s no combat in RiME, and you won’t find yourself upgrading any skill trees. No, the game is definitely meant to be simple and easy to follow.
RiME is both equal parts puzzle solving and platforming. Like I said before, you won’t find yourself stumped on a puzzle for more than 5 or 10 minutes. Instead, the puzzles are meant to slow you down a bit, think things through, and continue forth. As the worlds progress, different puzzle elements are introduced. Everything in RiME is introduced appropriately, so you’ll never feel like you lack the knowledge to progress. Overall, the puzzles provide a nice and relaxing way to investigate the environment.
Platforming is usually more of the “jump from ledge to ledge” variety rather than floating platforms, but there’s a decent mixture here. Climbable ledges are distinctly marked with wear-and-tear, so you’ll never be left searching. This eases up the potential frustration of getting lost, something I greatly appreciated. The overall combination of both the puzzle and platforming elements make for a good gameplay loop that isn’t repetitive or boring. Whenever you’re sick of puzzles, you’ll find yourself jumping around some beautiful environments, and vice versa.
The Bottom Line on RiME
I really enjoyed RiME. The game does a good job of presenting new and refreshing environments at a good pace, all while maintaining a fun and interesting gameplay loop. My biggest issue with the entire game is it’s frame rate and load times. While load times are only a bit lengthy, the frame rate drops are often and noticeable. Some of the later areas of the game run a bit more smoothly, but some of the introductory areas are vastly open and really cause the game to chug. It’s enough to set a bad first impression, and it’s something most players will see. Occasionally it takes away from the overall artistry of the game, as some moments are a bit less impacting because of the massive frame rate drop.
Despite the technical issues, RiME manages to impress. There’s a healthy amount of charm and heart that I connected to, and Enu’s journey is one that I think most people will enjoy. While it’s not as pretty as Journey, it holds its own. RiME is going to absolutely blow some people away. For most, it’s a beautiful game that is rewarding and pleasant to play. Depending on how often you go off exploring, RiME will take you anywhere from 6-15 hours to complete. The healthy amount of charm was enough to make me crack a smile more than once, which makes it altogether worth it for me.