It has been a troubled development period for Tequila Works’ RiME. Initially conceived as a very different title named Echoes of Siren, the game has changed hands between an Xbox 360 and Windows 8 exclusive game, it then changed hands to become a PS4-exclusive before being refined further and earlier this year becoming a multi-platform title. Other developers might have collapsed under a tumultuous development cycle, but four years after its debut at Gamescom, RiME has finally arrived.
RiME: Xbox One [Reviewed], PlayStation 4, PC, Nintendo Switch [Q3 2017]
Developer: Tequila Works
Publisher: Grey Box
Release Date: 26 May 2017
Price: £21.59 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
RiME tells the story of a child who has landed on an island after being shipwrecked. Aside from knowing that he has been shipwrecked, he doesn’t remember how else he got to the mysterious island. The island serves as a hub of sorts that you are encouraged to explore at your own pace. There is also extremely little direction telling you where to go or how to interact with the environment. Aside from a few button prompts that appear on screen, all hints are given either through murals on the floor and walls or a very helpful and encouraging Fox.
Aspects of the story are also told through murals and are open to interpretation until you collect more and piece the child’s backstory together through collectables. It’s no wonder since it’s debut, RiME has drawn plenty of comparisons to Ico and Journey. The wordless narrative and lack of urgency work in RiME‘s favor so the player is left to explore the island carefully and at their own pace. Exploring can also be done without penalty. Whether you fall a little too far or are plucked from the ground, you’ll be respawned at the last stable ground you were at. Stress is the last thing RiME wants to give you, and the respawn system is a perfect way to allow the player to be explorative and not worry.
Puzzles are the main hurdle as player’s progress and they provide a decent challenge. One of the first puzzles RiME throws in the way of players is to find four statues in the area in order to open a new path. In order to reach each of the statues players end up learning about underwater navigation, and luring other characters away. Later on, shadows play a pivotal role in solving puzzles and in sheltering the child from a bird-like creature. These ended up being the most rewarding puzzles to solve. They were challenging enough at first, but the “a-ha” moment didn’t take a long time to come along.
Graphically, RiME employs a cel-shaded style that will invoke The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. Dust kicks up as you move objects, trees and grass sways with the wind and because of these small touches, RiME is a game that looks beautiful at most angles. It presents the game in a cheerful and vibrant light that as you progress, grows grimmer in tone. A few rooms grow dark enough that I found myself lost about how to solve some puzzles and which way to go. Still, artistically RiME is a beautiful game to behold 95% of the time.
The sound and music are fantastic as well. Atmospheric sounds such as waves crashing and whispering voices bring RiME to life and they never feel out of place. Musically, RiME uses a string score with highlighted performances from violinist Lindsey Stirling. It strikes fantastic jubilant and somber tones in equal measure throughout the game and helps to sell the emotional impact it has.
And what an impact RiME has. Tequila Works has a game here that tries to tackle themes of grief, loss, and acceptance and does so with an artistic flair that is uncommon in gaming. It also manages to tackle these themes with nearly nonexistent combat that allows for the best parts of RiME, mainly the puzzles and story. It’s best to go into this title blind as to what’s in store to get the most of that impact.
RiME manages to tell a fantastic story without ever uttering a word. It’s the kind of game that supports the “games are art” idea and should find it’s way into future discussions on the subject. But for the player RiME is a journey about exploration and emotional acceptance. It’s a smooth, relaxing, and consequence free title up until the very end where it hands you an emotional gut-punch. RiME can be completed in under 10 hours, but those hours you spend are extremely well crafted and a title worthy of your attention.
RiME launches on Xbox One, PS4, and Windows PC on May 26th, with a Nintendo Switch version coming later this summer.