RiME (Xbox One Review)
Sticking with my bread and butter that is the puzzle genre I took on the new adventure-puzzle game RiME from Tequila Works. It begins with a boy being washed ashore, presumably from a shipwreck, on a mysterious island. This is where you come in, as you make a start on exploring the island with the help of a magical fox.
RiME is your typical adventure puzzle game that, to be blunt, doesn’t really do anything new compared to similar games like Journey or The Last Guardian. If you have played either, you can’t help but make comparisons while making your way through RiME. It can leave you with a slight feeling of disappointment if you take on a puzzle and can’t help thinking “I remember something like this from…”.
That’s not to say that RiME doesn’t have anything going for it. The story is emotionally strong and will have you welling up throughout, and if it doesn’t, then I can only assume you have a heart of stone or are dead inside. There are plenty of moments that will leave you feeling you’ve been gut punched as they quickly sneak up on you. This is a story with more than a few twists that will keep you guessing about what is actually going on right up until the end. I lost count of the amount of times I thought I’d figured out what was going on, only for a puzzle or cut scene to put me right back to square one. Stories like this always work out better–if you’ve figured out the ending about halfway through, the final reveal won’t have as much of an impact. Luckily, RiME manages to keep the ending hidden from you, right up until last second, and you won’t be disappointed with the outcome.
Alongside the story, you get to listen to one of the most fantastic soundtracks you’ll hear in a game. Each piece sets the scene perfectly and can be mesmerising at times. Credit to David Garcia Diaz for putting together some amazing pieces of music and to Mirella Diez Moran and Silvia Guillem Cofreces who provide vocals for the song ‘The Song of the Sea’. It’s the sort of soundtrack that will stay with you, with memories of RiME flooding back if you ever listen to it. You can find the soundtrack on Spotify if you fancy listening to it.
Another plus is the artwork. RiME is a beautiful game and creative director Raul Rubio has referenced the films Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and Jason and the Argonauts as influences, with other influences including the likes of artists Joaquin Sorolla, Salvador Dali and Giorgio de Chirico. Studio Ghibli is the first thing that came to mind when walking about the island as there are some statues that resemble the Kodama from Princess Mononoke. For those interested, the Kodama are a race of small, humanoid spirits who, according to Japanese folklore, populate the country’s treetops. So much detail has been put into the art for RiME which is apparent when you look through the concept art that unlocks throughout the game. There will many a time where you’ll find yourself just spinning the camera, taking in the fantastic work that’s been put together to make such a visually stunning game.
Speaking of unlocks, there are plenty of collectibles to find on the island that can distract you for a couple of hours. It won’t make much sense why you are collecting some of them until the end of the game but things like concept art and new outfits will unlock early on.
While RiME has a strong story, and is graphically stunning with an amazing soundtrack, it’s not without its problems. As I mentioned previously, RiME brings nothing new to the table that you don’t already find in similar games, but it is also let down by its lack of direction when it comes to its puzzles. I don’t expect hand holding when it comes to games, I think that it can be more interesting trying to figure things out on your own. Having said that, a little bit of guidance on the way forward other than, what’s best described as, essentially cave paintings on the ground, which can be easily missed, would have been appreciated. Even those sketches don’t fully give any hints on how to complete the puzzle as sometimes it shows you what the end result should be. It felt like a “here’s the answer, so what is the question” kind of deal, except you had no context or than the answer was in a general direction, usually past the cave painting clue.
Another issue was around framerates. While any dips were inconsistent, it always seemed to happen at the most inopportune time, usually when I was trying to time a jump, which would cause me to miss and start a climb again, or in the middle of a puzzle, making completing it take longer than was necessary. At least once it dipped so low that I might as well have been playing a stop motion game. Like I said, it was inconsistent, but when it did happen it was pretty bad.
My last issue is the length. Spending some time exploring and picking up some collectibles, I was still able to complete RiME in seven hours which, for a game it’s current price tag, is a bit too short. I’m torn between this being a problem and letting it slide as the story RiME is telling isn’t one that should be dragged out any longer as it would run the risk of getting stale and the ending not having the same impact. Think of this as more of a heads up notice that while it’s not a major problem, when the story is taken into account, it is a short game.
If you’re looking for a game with a strong story, accompanied by stunning visuals and engrossing soundtrack, I would recommend picking it up so long as you’re not looking for a new adventure puzzle experience. If you have played games like The Last Guardian and Journey and just weren’t feeling it, then this would probably be one to avoid as you won’t find anything different.