Review copy provided through PlayStation Plus.
UNMOORED FROM the linguistic concept that dictates two words must sound the same in order to receive lexical endorsement, what is RiME? Well now, that depends on who you ask. To an artist, it’s a painting of vivid ivory archipelagoes and amphitheatres that look like delicious feta cheese. For a musician, perhaps RiME feels more like a mellow orchestra that only dares sing during profound, emotionally crushing moments. And though no words are actually spoken, RiME is a video game at heart. It was made to be climbed upon, swum inside, and have its ambiguous puzzles solved.
It’s a bit of this:
Tequila Works’ inspirations are varied, stemming from PlayStation hits like Jak and Daxter, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, as well as Fireproof’s award winning puzzle game The Room and 1963 film Jason and the Argonauts. Indeed, one of the first thoughts that came to mind as I strolled through RiME‘s environments was how similar they were to the Greek islands. White as far as the eye can see, pristine, pure, and innocent. It’s a bona fide exhibition. And yet, there was a strange emptiness I couldn’t quite place. It’s something you always risk by making a minimalist adventure whose narrative oxygen very much depends on the ability to inspire curiosity within a player; get that wrong, and trekking feels lifeless instead of magnetic. In my view, RiME‘s compass was consistently pointing in the middle of those two cardinal directions.
It tries to sow everything together using puzzles which, usually, require the young boy (RiME‘s protagonist) to manipulate blocks and beams of light. But apart from a couple of notable exceptions, these visual riddles are too simple and border on underwhelming. Whenever I set out to play a mystical adventure game, I expect to get stuck. Reallllly stuck. I want to scratch my head in glorious analysis, and if things get too mind boggling, look up a walkthrough, as many late nights sifting through Ocarina of Time guides can attest. If I’m not frustrated at least 50% of the time, there’s something wrong. Don’t misunderstand, the puzzle design is logical, yet its layers are easily unravelled in a few mental steps. There’s also a few sets of collectibles to incentivise exploration, although I almost feel as if they were out of place in this game. So while RiME might look like Wind Waker and have a Last Guardian dynamic going on, precious slabs of difficulty have been carved out, leaving behind a rather basic relief.
On the other hand, RiME‘s music had me feeling like I was witnessing a classical music concert. The pensive violin, wounded piano and what I believe is smooth, elusive clarinet create a beautiful symphony that sometimes reminded me of Ghibli scores. Whenever I closed my eyes, it took me to another place. That said, I was hoping for more originality, aching for a theme that was so utterly engrossing I couldn’t stop listening to it if I tried. The ending piece El Sueño del Mar (The Song of the Sea) filled that void. Silvia Guillem Cofreces brings a pained maturity to the track I would have loved to see sprinkled across the entire OST.
Things I was expecting to see in RiME:
- An epic island adventure
- A big variety of brain-busting puzzles
Things I was NOT expecting to see in RiME:
- Parallels with Journey (Music, running towards fading white light, powerful airborne beast trying to snatch you, red cloaked figure)
- No-Face speaking Parseltongue (technically multiple No-Faces)
- Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons flashback
- Limbo flashback
- Obsolete technology
- Compositions from Lindsey Stirling
- The ending ripping my heart to pieces
RiME feels a bit like multiple Journeys in one. It’s a metaphor for something much deeper, which I won’t dare reveal. However, the recycling of certain well-known formulas and visual cues diminished some of the surprise. After conquering the first two or three ‘worlds’, the main story lost its grip on me. It did manage to re-enchant, though only towards the end, and especially so in a finale which I absolutely did not foresee. On the technical side, I did experience some frame drops here and there, particularly when running quickly around flame particles, but overall, RiME runs absolutely fine on PlayStation 4.
RiME looks like a pantheon of mouthwatering feta, sounds like an atomspheric blessing from the heavens, but more often than not, plays like a plastic guitar with the simplicity of pre-set buttons. On several levels, it diverges from my preconceived beliefs, and those deviations are both good and bad. If you don’t mind when a game hoists its pretty platformer flag but forgets to really set sail until the latter stages, then I can give this a lukewarm recommendation. The closing chapter is extremely bittersweet and was responsible for several tears.
WHY YOU SHOULD PLAY IT:
- You like whimsical adventures
- You prefer relaxation. Accessible over challenging gameplay FTW.
- You cannot resist good art
- You’re a fan of heartfelt classical scores
- Gorgeous environments
- Beautiful orchestral soundtrack
- Puzzles are unstimulating
- Main story lulls