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Rime: The Story Behind PlayStation 4’s Most Intriguing Indie Exclusive

February 19, 2015 Written by Michael Briers

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Whether it’s long summer nights spent with friends or logging umpteen hours into your favorite Nintendo game, few things bring about a blissful sense of happiness as memories of childhood. It’s a universal feeling we can all relate to and, crucially, one which underpins Tequila Works’ upcoming PlayStation 4 exclusive, Rime.

Taking place on a beautiful, cel-shaded island (one of five levels, mind you), Rime’s vistas are a product of the studio’s Spanish roots, and the serene, sun-kissed beaches that line the Mediterranean coastlines. As a Madrid-based independent developer consisting of 25 core creators, Tequila Works is perhaps best known for its 2.5D zombie-infested sidescroller, Deadlight.

But its latest project is a far cry from the decimated streets of Seattle.

A Runaway Desire to Explore

An elevator pitch for the company’s upcoming adventure would pin it as an amalgamation of Team Ico’s Shadow of the Colossus and The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. It’s not an unflattering comparison, of course, given that these two titles regularly teeter on the edge of conversation when one contemplates their favorite games of all time.

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In fact, this comparison stretches beyond mere aesthetics.

Inspired by Greatness

Be it charting the rolling, sky-blue waves of the Great Sea or scaling the fantastical realms of the Forbidden Land as Wander, both games are in some shape or form defined by their innate sense of adventure; a sense of adventure that is deeply infused in the DNA of the genre itself.

For in Tequila Works’ sophomore title, players will see the world through the eyes of a child — both figuratively and literally. Stepping into the shoes of a mute eight-year-old boy, Rime will drop players onto a visually striking, wondrous isle that is simply vying to be explored to your heart’s content.

With puzzles to solve and a plethora of secrets to uncover, the studio has went the extra mile to ensure handholding and obtuse signposting are kept at a minimum. This is an adventure that Tequila Works doesn’t want to interrupt, period.

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By incorporating environmental storytelling with a rousing, unobtrusive score that gently eases you in the right direction, the Spanish dev wants to imbue the player with a tangible sense of independence, as they overturn rocks and pluck the leaves off of trees just as a curious eight-year-old would.

Minimalist by nature, this design philosophy is fundamental to the vision of Rime, and one echoed by Tequila Works CEO Raúl Rubio. Speaking to Gamereactor, Rubio outlined the studio’s method of approach.

Rime is a game that has its own storyboard, its own palette. This palette evolves as you pull through the game and there are some iconic elements, it has its own visual language that combines design and art… There is an art bible containing a huge amount of information that tells us how things work, kind of a set of rules. When the main reason of your game is art, you realise that you have to learn many more of these rules. Artists can teach us much about what a good game really is.

Engineering a true sense of player agency while simultaneously delivering a compelling story is certainly no mean feat, and the jury is still out on whether the narrative of Rime can dazzle its audience in the manner of its tropic environments. But if the spectacle attracted our curiosity, it’s what we still don’t know about Tequila Works’ adventure that has our attention. An air of mystery that has cemented its reputation as one of PS4’s most tantalising prospects.

Granted, by its very nature, Rime isn’t a game that lends itself to the industry’s traditional marketing model. Detailing the contents of the experience prior to release through a snappy trailer or extensive dev diary would only undermine what the studio is trying to achieve. Here is a piece of software that demands to be interpreted organically, not picked apart to within an inch of its life. 

Defying Convention

It’s for this reason that Tequila Works’ title bears semblance to other, similarly ethereal experiences on PlayStation’s roster of indies. Low-key hits such as The Unfinished Swan, Proteus, and thatgamecompany’s award-winning Journey enthralled audiences with their atypical approach to game design, allowing the experience to resonate with the player long after the credits rolled. 

And though it remains to be seen whether Rime can indeed rub shoulders with these digital greats, the mantra behind the pixels is tit for tat. By presenting the user with a relatively blank canvas — a serene, visually beautiful canvas at that — upon which to project their ideas and, perhaps more importantly, be shaped by those on screen, Rime‘s story becomes your story. 

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Remember that moment at the end of Journey when you suddenly got something stuck in your eye and had to leave the room? It’s because that moment represented the culmination of an exhausting pilgrimage, both physically and emotionally; an exhausting pilgrimage that we could all relate to at some point in our lives, be it the loss of a family member or a hard-hitting breakup. Attributing meaning to the game and that moment in particular was so effortless thanks to thatgamecompany’s minimalist, self-effacing design.

Power to the Player

But if Journey was primarily concerned about transcendence and instilling a sense of awe, then Rime is, as we alluded to earlier, all about tapping into the wondrous feeling of childhood. Tequila Works’ upcoming title may be easy on the eyes, but it’s staying power will be judged based on its ability to connect with the player — a facet that has underpinned good game design for generations. 

Take Pokémon, for instance. As a child playing Nintendo’s expansive RPG, you weren’t concerned about the graphics on display (in the days long before 1080p and 60fps became the seemingly ironclad threshold). Instead, you subconsciously extrapolated the sense of adventure and let your imagination run rampant beyond the black and white sprites.

Will Rime channel the same magic?

With a dash of Wind Waker, a sprinkling of Shadow of the Colossus and just the right amount of Studio Ghibli thrown in for good measure, Tequila Works’ serving certainly has the necessary ingredients to become something truly special, echoing some of the indie greats that have resonated with the PlayStation audience over the last few years.

For all intents and purposes, Rime is shaping up to be a game that you don’t simply play, but one you inhabit. We were all born curious, after all.

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