There are many questions we get as gamers. Those of the non gaming persuasion like to watch us play games and ask that one question in particular, you know the one, the most frustrating and often ambiguous to answer. So what’s the point of this game? This mentality is born of the games of old which had set objectives and high scores. Still to this day many games can be distilled down to a sentence. Kill the thing, save the world, repeat. In recent years games have come along which make this question very difficult to answer indeed. RiME is absolutely one of those games.
The game begins by placing the player on the beach of a Mediterranean looking island and sets them on their way. There’s no direction or prompts here, just intuition and drive on the player’s end. RiME starts slow, very slow. The player is coaxed through the opening level by clever lighting tricks and great level design and quickly stumbles upon the game’s guide, a small fox.
RiME is best described as a puzzle platformer with heavy environmental storytelling elements. There’s no dialogue and very few cutscenes, with the story forming slowly over time via subtle murals and music cues. The basic gameplay involves the transfer of light and shadow across different switches which in turn open doors and pathways leading up to a mysterious tower. There’s impressive platforming sections peppered in between the puzzles which give the world a real sense of size and scope. At least, this is what the start of the game entails. RiME’s greatest strength is its excellent pacing. The game absolutely gets better as it goes on, with new and interesting puzzles drip fed between each level. Two hours in I was unsure of RiME’s identity and direction but as it went on I found the small shards of story slowly coming together to form an engaging plot.
Visually RiME takes its cues from The Witness, Journey and The Last Guardian. If asked to describe the game I would probably say RiME is a pretty even blend of the above, with very few distinguishing factors of its own. This identity problem eases over time but the ghost of games past certainly haunts the experience. Certain sequences and mechanics had me thinking “Oh just like in Journey” or “this is all a bit Last Guardian-y” but overall I think the game just about manages to offer something of its own. The world is one teaming with life. Birds, wild boars and other creatures all react to the players presence. Later on, ghostly wraiths cower and wail at your very sight and torches erupt at your call.
Each level follows its own distinct style. Forests, water, light, dark all make for diverse and consistently enticing environments. The game should be commended for its ability to lead the player where they need to go without any hand holding or prompts.
RiME is a game which deals in absolutes. Life and death. Black and white. Light and dark. All of these themes are explored gently throughout the roughly 8 hours of playtime with the game never revealing too much and staying hard to pin down right until the very end. The score is the backbone holding the game together and manages to evoke just the right emotions when needed. Some sections are elevated to new heights by the subtle musical cues accompanying them and I found myself consistently floored by the game’s ability to make me feel.
Character animations are wonderfully executed with the protagonist reacting and influencing the world around him in small but delightful ways. He’ll shiver in the rain. Shoo away wild boars and gawk in wonder at the game’s many incredible views. Speaking of the views, RiME is one of the prettiest games I’ve ever played. Clever use of lighting and the anime art direction help the game shine. One sequence in particular plays out in a downpour. The muted blues and deep blacks all compliment the avalanche rain drops striking the environment. There was more than one time that I found myself simply standing still and taking the world in.
RiME features some minor technical difficulties over its playtime. Frame rate issues regularly presented themselves particularly in one sequence involving a bird. Largely, they never got in the way of my experience and are minor enough that they will most likely be patched day one.
The main draw of RiME is its ending. I urge you to avoid any story spoilers for this game. There aren’t many but the way the game slowly reveals its hand over time is its greatest strength. The final sequence is both a joy to play through and an absolute gut punch and is likely what will help elevate this game to higher acclaim.
After the credits rolled I found myself jumping straight back in to experience the game with my newly gained perspective. There are collectables to find but they add little to the overall experience so will likely only be for the completionists out there.
At first I found RiME difficult to pin down, unsure of its identity or direction. As the game slowly unfolded I put its intentions together piece by piece until it built to an emotionally charged crescendo. RiME has some of the prettiest visuals of any game I’ve played and practices excellent pacing throughout. The emotional gut punch at the end has burnt the game forever into my memory as a profound, beautiful and often contemplative experience. It borrows the best parts from games you love and creates something well worth your time.