Washed up on a beach, a young child in a tattered red cloak surveys the world around them. A bright and sunny island greets them, and their focus is inexplicably drawn to a large tower in the center. This is where Rime (stylized RiME) starts, and without saying a word, you set off to explore the unfamiliar, yet nonthreatening surroundings. Rime immediately asks a series questions that incite a search for answers. What is this island? What is the tower? Who is this child in the red cloak and why were they lying face down on a beach? Those answers are discovered, and yet throughout Rime, nary a word is spoken.
Rime’s story is presented simply and effectively, using visual cues to fuel the search for answers and to encourage an emotional connection with the narrative. It’s paced in such a way that it never feels like there are long, dull stretches without intrigue. The pseudo open world has a variety of nooks and crannies begging for exploration, and certain elements in the environment won’t become clear until a second play through. Changes to the setting are frequent as you solve puzzles and move forward, keeping a particular level of curiosity piqued, while also being central to the themes that each section of Rime delivers. Even if it’s not apparent while playing, the ending makes everything clear and made me immediately want to replay, not only to discover additional secrets hidden on the island, but to also make the journey with the full understanding of the message that was being delivered.
One of the biggest problems with games that try to establish an emotional connection is that gameplay often suffers at the expense of trying too hard to make the player feel something, puzzles feeling like an afterthought instead of ingrained in to the world and story. Rime manages to avoid this common trap. Largely environmental in nature, the puzzles always feel like a proper part of the world, rather than an added layer on top to give gamers something to do. Figuring out how to navigate the island is the puzzle. It’s not entirely an open world, but it never feels like it is obviously guiding you down a specific path, letting you explore each area at your leisure.
The puzzles consist of a mixture of exploration and figuring out what you need to do to move forward. One puzzle has you rolling a ball that changes the time of day, lining up shadows to open the path forward. Others have you figuring out how to navigate a series of ruins in order to get to a small statue. Yet another segment has you avoiding being outside, seeking cover from a mean bird-like creature. The puzzles never reached a point of being mind breaking and difficult, but there were some fun ones that gave me pause as I thought up their solutions. As much as I would have liked the puzzles to test my mind a bit more, Rime isn’t designed to be a difficult puzzle game. It’s centered on the deeply emotional story it has to tell, and frustrating puzzles would get in the way of delivering its message effectively.
Rime feels like a mix between something like Journey or The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker and a Fumito Ueda (The Last Guardian, Shadow of the Colossus) game. It’s artistically stunning, striking a painterly look that avoids coming across as a cheap visual trick. A progressive day night cycle actually changes the color palette of the world, and moving through Rime brings different environments that are designed to evoke different emotions. The pacing always managed to bring a fresh element to the visuals or puzzles that ensured Rime never got boring. I always remained engaged in the silent narrative and the beautiful world, which is key to making the emotional connection that they want to make and to bring more than a tear or two before the end.
There are some performance issues I encountered that did distract. Frame rates would periodically stutter and dip at a noticeable level, something that did end up detracting from the visual wonder Rime is otherwise. Running can also feel a little bit slowly, particularly when going off to explore far corners of each area. Getting back to the intended path can feel like a bit of a chore because there is no run button that allows for faster environmental traversal. It’s not as bad as something like Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, but it tends to demotivate from exploring to find the little collectibles that help to enhance the story.
RiME Review - Love, Loss, and Letting Go (PS4)
It would be a crime to talk about Rime without taking the time to mention the soundtrack. The music of Rime is the tying thread that binds the bright visuals and the deep themes together. Rime’s solemn and swelling soundtrack becomes the words in a wordless game, helping to tell the story to the player by creating a deep connection through every note. Through every beat of Rime’s excellent pacing, the soundtrack is there to provide a foundation and backing for the feelings it is trying to deliver.
Rime is a game about loss. Rime is a game about grief. Rime is a game that I’m not ashamed to say made me cry. It’s a beautiful journey and doesn’t seek to simply entertain, but rather to touch the player’s soul on a deeply emotional level through engagement and interaction. On the surface Rime is a great looking adventure full of puzzles set in a mysterious and living environment. At its core, Rime is something so much more. By weaving stunning art and engaging gameplay with a brutally emotional narrative, Rime blurs the line between touching the heart and entertaining the player in a way that few games have truly achieved.
Rime review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy.