We may be a little bit late to the party but… We just beat RiME, the latest creation from Spanish studio Tekila Works. A game that has managed to claim its own place among late AAA hitters and other knockouts with a very characteristic rhythm.
Crafted as an adventure-puzzle game, RiME puts us in the shoes of a boy without a name stranded on a mysterious island. In front of him are the thrills of exploration, evocative ruins from afar civilizations, even a delightful fox companion to guide his steps. The point of the game is to figure out and traverse puzzles and unlocking the secrets of the island while doing so. There is no tutorial, no lines of dialogue, no forthright narrative. And yet, nothing of what RiME tells is fortuitous or simple for that matter.
You may argue its setting is not precisely new, but it is definitely intriguing. Behind that sense of immediate adventure, it tells a story of self-discovery, a journey through personal recognition, fulfillment and everything dark and painful in between.
While playing RiME it is easy to feel the influences of other titles orbiting around. There’s definitely something of Journey and Abzu here, and something Uncharted as well. If you dig the designs of Hayao Miyazaki, you’ll find a home in this island and cherish some of its encounters. RiME succeeds in turning those influences into something of its own, crafting an experience that is unique and hard to forget.
Welcome to Paradise
RiME greets you first and foremost with its stunning visuals, which are consistently gorgeous throughout the game. The world is assembled in a unique creative style and offers way more than what you see at first. From the sunny, Mediterranean shores of the beginning to underwater ruins and everlasting, crumbling temples, there’s a sense of constant bewilderment in the air. On top of its aesthetic qualities, you will also spend great amounts of time climbing, jumping and traversing obstacles, hills and walls of that world.
Far from ever being static, the island goes through different metamorphoses on a fairly regular basis. As you traverse through gates and bridges, there’s always an element of surprise on the other side. I’d even go ahead and say that the environments assume a storytelling role, either as a metaphor for the kid’s journey or as containers of murals and extra background narratives. In any case, they deeply uplift the game experience to the point of becoming one of its best attributes.
But even if RiME‘s environments are top notch, I found there was a missed opportunity within them as well. Specifically, with how interactivity operates. The adventure starts off strong, with clear winds of exploration. The first puzzles on those sunny shores indicate there’s a path to follow but if you want, there’s also the freedom to roam outside of that path. Later on, however, everything ties around a more linear narrative, eliminating that first open world taste. Exploration then falls short and you almost forget about all the collectibles you had discovered during your early steps. I presume this has something to do with the fact that RiME was originally sketched to be an open world. This does not diminish the game’s value overall but it would have extended its life cycle quite a bit.
Puzzle Me Everything
In RiME, the story unfolds as you solve different puzzles. You soon learn that the young protagonist holds the key to set everything surrounding him in motion. His voice, when directed to different objects in the scene, starts small chains of events. On top of that, you have your fair share of moving objects around and playing with switches. Some of the most appealing ones are those related to perspective. In these you have to look through a lens, rolling the view of the camera around so different elements in the environment converge to create a concrete shape that enables you to move further.
While befitting the setting, these puzzles are everything but complicated. In the whole game there are maybe a couple of occasions that require that extra thought. The great majority of them can be solved after a few tries and simply by looking around. On top of that, there’s a moment in the game where the puzzle scheme simply stops for the sake of the story. If you dig a sense of crazy challenge, you won’t find it here. But for others who don’t like difficulty if it starts cutting off the main narrative flow, RiME’s puzzle scheme works fine.
A Journey of Emotions
RiME is one of those perfect examples that go on to show you don’t need elaborate dialogues or walls of text in video games to fully tell a story. Instead, RiME relies on its characters’ actions and quick cinematic scenes to convey the whole narrative of its protagonist. This is a tale of findings and breakthroughs, heavy with emotional bits aimed clearly at your heart strings. It’s hard not to fall in love with those who cross your way, one way or the other. Maybe because the kid (and by extension, the player) feels so lost and adrift in the island after the first minutes of euphoria, each meeting represents a meaningful connection to the underlying mystery you are trying to solve.
Like with Journey or Abzu, there are also sketches of a deeper story shown through murals on walls. These talk about the civilization on the island and some of its creatures, creating a parallel tale underneath your own. A much older, quite inviting one. It then feels somehow like a lost opportunity that these murals never culminate. In its present state, the game hints at them as a sort of filler for the levels. It seems to me it would have been much better to make them reach the conclusion they ought to reach, as intrinsic parts of the world you traverse. In the light of the game’s ending, however, you may understand the reasoning behind this lack of development. Which makes me think whether it would not have been better to just omit their presence altogether.
Beautifully crafted and packed with memorable scenes, RiME is really worth the time and attention of those in search of meaningful story. The way this fiction unfolds with its own rhythm and visuals compensates for the game’s gameplay and control shortcomings. Unless you came expecting a completely different title, that is. Last but not least, the soundtrack by David García does real wonders to the whole universe and deserves a special mention here.
All in all, RiME took me about six hours to beat. And yet it still feels like there were corridors I should have ventured through. Caves I left unexplored, details I missed. While there’s definitely a replayability value for collectors and explorers, I do believe RiME’s main attribute is that of its narrative significance. The one that will invite you in the future to come back for another round.