Without rhyme or reason we wake up, soaked and seemingly stranded on a sun-drenched beach with nothing but the seagulls and a few local crabs for companionship. Who we are and what we are doing here is never fully explained, nor as it turns out, is it particularly important either. This is a game that doesn’t allow itself to get bogged down in character dialogue or epic quest lines to save the princess. “Shipwrecked boy” is all we need to know and it is actually quite refreshing.
Rime made it’s first impression on gamers after it’s reveal at Gamescom 3 years ago. With it’s cel shaded aesthetic sending a clear link to fans of The Legend of Zelda: Windwaker, it looked like developer Tequila Works was bringing something very special exclusively to Playstation fans. Fast forward those 3 years and following a change of IP ownership along the way, Rime is now available across PS4, Xbox One, PC and there is even a Nintendo Switch version in the works!
“With Rime, there is a level of polish across the board that is incredibly high”
On the surface it would be easy to shrug Rime off as just a Zelda knock-off, especially in the wake of the critically and commercially well received Breathe of the Wild. In doing so though would be doing a huge disservice. Other than having a similar art style as the aforementioned Nintendo juggernaut, Rime owes much more to titles such as Journey, Ico, The Witness and even some sprinklings of The Last Guardian.
For a game with no dialogue at all, sound is incredibly important and is an aspect where Tequila Works really surprised me. Often in smaller independent titles, a high level of polish and detail can frequently be outwith their grasp, due to the nature of having smaller teams and much smaller budgets. With Rime, there is a level of polish across the board that is incredibly high. A key highlight being the games audio. From the environmental sounds to the achingly beautiful orchestral score, this is a game where you often just stand on a hilltop looking out at a sunset and get swept up in how well everything blends together. Seagulls caw, wild boar snort away as they munch on fallen fruit and the sound of the wind gets stronger the higher you climb.
You are never made to feel in a rush to keep moving either. The game allows you to absorb every mystery that this strange island has to offer at your own pace. And yet the flow of the game has perfect pacing throughout. At no time was I left feeling a particular section was dragging on too long or wandering aimlessly with no direction on where to head next. Impressive indeed for a game with no tutorials or hand-holding. Just an occasional nudge in the right direction via a camera pan.
“I found it all very captivating and a relaxing, joyous experience. Puzzles are smart and satisfying to solve…”
Gameplay wise if you have played either of the titles mentioned earlier, then you can go in knowing pretty much what style of game this is. There is no combat, no enemies to vanquish with magical weapons, just very clever environmental puzzles that must be solved in order to proceed. Whilst that may turn some gamers off, I found it all very captivating and a relaxing, joyous experience. Puzzles are smart and satisfying to solve, even elegantly so but never once was I frustrated or felt my progress hampered by unfair or cheap mechanics. They never outstay their welcome either or devolve in to repetition. As a new element is introduced, it is then changed just enough the next time. These twists to the formula of Rime highlight just how much care Tequila Works has given to ensure gamers feel satisfied, yet still challenged enough to keep moving.
Technically Rime was very close to being flawless throughout with only a couple of minor exceptions. Animation is smooth and well done, whether it be running, clambering over objects or scratching his bum when left idle for a few moments. Again this comes back to the level of polish the team were able to commit to the game. Level design feeds directly in to the environmental puzzles mentioned earlier and blends perfectly with the art style. Brightly bleached-out beaches that appear almost desert-like, dank eery catacombs or luminous coral reefs under the sea. All look great and you’ll want to take as much time as possible to soak it all in. Even controls feel tight and responsive for player movement.
The only blips I experienced in my 5-ish hour playthrough was some abrupt framerate drops in the final third of the game and the camera wigging out on occasion. Rare but worth a mention anyway. Overall though performance was smooth and never sullied the experience.
There are also some nicely thought out collectibles to discover, fiendishly dotted around each environment, the meaning for which isn’t made clear until you finish the game. But rest assured it’s a great touch that by the time the credits rolled had my tear ducts filling up and a knot in the throat. Everything about the game has been handled so elegantly, with a care and attention not found in many titles so far this year. Which puts Rime at the top for one of the most affecting experiences you can have in 2017.
Tequila Works has created something beautiful here. Rime is mesmerising with it’s secrets and the soundtrack will floor you.