Novelist Harry Leon Wilson was once said to have noted that “golf has too much walking to be a good game, and just enough game to spoil a good walk.” The same could be said of Rime, the latest game from Tequila Works (Deadlight, The Sexy Brutale) and publisher Grey Box. After a somewhat tumultuous development, switching from Xbox to Sony to independent publishing, this beautiful game is ultimately undone by too many simplistic puzzles that break up an unconvincing narrative that only hits home right at the end.
Rime starts with our nameless, mostly speechless protagonist waking up on a beach, with no clear direction to head in. It is up to you, and your magical fox chaperone to explore the strange, ruined land you’ve found yourself in. And from the start you are presented with some gorgeous graphics – the cel-shaded art style is one of the best implementations I’ve seen to date. Throughout the soft, gentle music perfectly matches the on screen visuals. Sparse and deliberate, it’s a powerful counterpoint to the sumptuous graphics.
Which is good, for much of the time I wasn’t really invested in what happened on screen.
Rime seems to deliberately attempt to ape the mood, style, atmosphere and mechanics of Fumito Ueda’s latest games, including Ico and The Last Guardian. In other parts it also wears its influences from That Game Company’s Journey on its sleeve a little too loudly. In some, Rime lives up to those legendary games, but in others it unfortunately falls short of what made those games so special.
Rime almost requires you to be familiar with those games to know how to proceed. Why can’t I climb that rock, while I can clamber up this similar-sized boulder? The thin white strip on top that says you can of course. It’s a trope familiar to many gamers, but for those without that knowledge of how these games are structured, the “logic” unique to video games, it can pass from mysterious to confusing all too quickly. With minimal guidance or explanations and, a wonderfully empty HUD, and no objective markers, it can at times be left up to your prior knowledge about how games work, which I can see being potentially confusing to some people.
A sense of over-familiar tropes carries on to the puzzles themselves. For the most part the puzzles are often too easy, and thus unsatisfying. The majority felt less like puzzles than things to complete to keep the story moving and to unblock the door to the next area. I have a feeling that the developers were going for a Legend of Zelda feel to the logic puzzles, but in many cases they were simply too linear: go here, press this button, move here, walk through. It was the multitude of these types of puzzles that felt like there were there just to slow you down as you moved through the story that made them an unwelcome distraction and irritant that must be plowed through rather than enjoyed.
There were, however, rare instances where the puzzles did pull through. In one, you must use the rudder of a ship to change the shadows the mast emits onto four panels. Getting the right number of panels lit up required a bit of thought, and the solution (which I won’t spoil here) required lateral thinking and left me genuinely delighted.
As in its gaming inspirations, there is no direct combat in Rime. Instead, combat scenarios are themselves additional puzzles to solve. Often using the environment as a key, these were some of the best parts of the game, without the tedium of Ico’s press square to swing a 6 foot pole aimlessly.
In my time with the game on the Xbox one, I had massive framerate and stuttering issues. It broke up not only cinematics, but normal gameplay at nearly every turn. It was extremely distracting and it was clear that it was not developed by the in-house team.
Rime feels like a really good clone of a really great game. That may sound harsh, yet I don’t mean to say that to obviate the huge amount of work clearly poured into this game. There’s much to commend in Rime, but I don’t think it’s a game that we’re going to be talking about for as long as the games that so clearly inspired it. Personally I would have liked to have seen more exploration, less linearity and a great freedom to walk among the nooks and crannies of the gorgeous world Tequila Works have created.
While it ultimately left me disappointed, I still enjoyed my time with the game. While like golf, it may be a good walk spoiled, at least you’re walking through a wonderful world.
Released: May 2017
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Adventure, Puzzle
Developer: Tequila Works
Publisher: Grey Box Games</p