RiME tells the story of a child who washes up on an apparently deserted island, but this game has been a long time coming. The Ico style game play and Windwaker inspired aesthetic won RiME more than a few fans at Gamescom 2013. The narrative puzzler that began as an Xbox title, before being picked up by Grey Box, is finally out on PS4. Happily, Rime was worth the wait.
The comparison to Ico is unavoidable; a tunic-clad child in a strange landscape punctuated with crumbling towers that dwarf the lone figure. RiME is also a puzzle adventure that tells an emotional tale without dialogue, but unlike Ico there is no combat.
It’s worth noting that the protagonist was designed by Tequila Works CEO, Raúl Rubio Munárriz, to be of no fixed gender, rendering them with a sense of the “every child.” Their adventure begins with a storm at sea and the motif of a red tatter of cloth caught on the wind. Then the child awakes on the beach of what looks like an uninhabited island.
Seagulls keel above in an azure sky, crabs scuttle across the sand and the sea laps at the shore. In the distance, a white tower gleams in a call to adventure that’s reminiscent of Journey.
RiME has the feel of a remote Greek island. The blue skies and intense sunshine reflecting off white marble columns, which hint at an old civilization. It’s these mysterious ruins, which create the puzzles that are central to the game.
Certain statues and orbs can be activated by the child’s voice, opening doorways and advancing progress. The early part of the game generally involves collecting items hidden around the coastal part of the island. Unresponsive controls make picking up objects more of a chore than it needs to be. And the game suffers from serious frame rate drop in places on PS4. Thankfully, neither of these issues are enough to detract from the rest of the game.
While scaling towers, the wind tugs at the child’s tunic, the slap of their feet on the sun baked stone. If you fall, there is no death, the game just sets you back where you were. Even the antagonists either simply slow you down or trigger a restart, as if you’d fallen. Fortunately, the smooth jumping controls mean the platforming sections are enjoyable, rather than frustrating.
Rime is a game that lets you luxuriate in the beauty of its world. Zones on the island take you from semi-classical ruins on the surface, to the underground halls of these abandoned structures and beautiful underwater sections.
It’s the sense of mystery that draws you through, with a red cloaked figure seen in the distance luring you ever onward. As the game progresses, the atmosphere shifts to an ominous tone. The child leaves the bright tranquility of the beach and enters dark tunnels where the whispering, slithering shade creatures lurk. Later levels include a desert patrolled by an eagle and a castle rendered in black stone that glistens in the driving rain.
Rime has a stripped back design, with no HUD and no menus cluttering the screen, leaving you free to enjoy the pretty visuals. The controls are simply run, jump, climb and yell, which is used to activate some objects.
One puzzle allows you to control the night and day cycle. This is a lovely moment, but isn’t developed more, which is a shame. However, it does play with the overall theme of light and dark, life and death that hangs over the game.
The child is joined by a fox, who acts as a guide at certain points. Later on, another companion helps the kid access new parts of the castle, as well as adding complexity to the puzzles. The solutions are often elegant and sometimes result in beautiful cut scenes, which enhance the story. Hardened puzzle fans may find the puzzles too simple, as only a few require more than a moment’s thought.
It would be easy to write off Rime as derivative, but it has a charm of its own. Much of it is familiar; the lone child, the sense of scale in the crumbling architecture, even the soaring score by David Garcia Díaz is reminiscent of Journey, but worthy of note.
Despite wearing its influences on its sleeve, Rime tells a heartbreaking story with beautiful efficiency. The puzzles could be deeper, but ultimately, Rime’s gorgeous world and its tale of childhood and loss is well worth the journey. In addition, it makes Tequila Works a studio to watch.