Tequila Works, a video-game development team made up of former Blizzard Entertainment and Sony Computer Entertainment employees among other developers, are back for their third title since forming in 2009. What began as a completely different idea with the project name Echoes of Siren, RiME went through a difficult eight year teething process to become what it is today. There’s no tower defense or hunting/crafting like what was originally planned, but what we do get in RiME is an adventure-puzzle game like no other.
RiME brings to life a journey that you didn’t realise you needed to take. A young boy washes up on an island barely alive, and commences the necessary and compelling exploration of his surroundings. With a somewhat passive world, using only the most basic of gameplay mechanics and his trusty voice, the game has you scouring the plagued island to find a boat so that you can get home. Think 2012’s Journey but more oriented around puzzle solving. Think colourful and enticing environments like 2016’s The Witness, but a more interactive and diverse world to explore, and you have RiME.
Getting into the basics of RiME, you soon meet your trusty fox companion which guides you through the world. If you ever lose track of where you’re going, the fox barks at you and leads you to the direction you should be travelling to progress. On one hand, you can follow the fox and finish the game in around eight hours, but on the other hand there are dozens of collectibles to find along hidden paths and in nooks of the world that you would otherwise completely miss, so often it’s a good idea to venture off on your own to see what you will find.
The controls are about as basic as they get with jump, roll, interact, and yell being the only four functions. The camera can be a little irritating at first as it doesn’t stop immediately when you let go of the analogue stick, meaning it can spin a bit further than you were wanting it to. The actual movement of your character is splendid to control however, and you’ll find that climbing around and jumping across platforms is fairly easy. Rolling is pretty unnecessary as there’s really no reason to roll in the game at all, however you’ll find yourself interacting with and yelling at a lot of things in RiME.
At first the yelling seems a bit gimmicky, but you soon learn that it actually creates a new element of gameplay which separates RiME from other puzzle adventure games. The yelling causes anything with energy, such as lights or orbs, to get more powerful and in turn allows you to see easier in dark areas, as well as solve almost every puzzle. RiME is a game very much focused on lights and shadows, and as you work your way through the story you’ll find it becomes more and more essential.
In the latter half of the game you become more dependent on orbs to light the way and clear areas. There are different types of orbs, some single-use orbs, and some that even become a life of their own. There’s only really one type of enemy in RiME that causes you grief, but orbs tend to take care of them quite easily. If you’ve played through any games which you would consider to be difficult puzzle adventure games, RiME’s puzzles are more or less fairly easy to work your way through. In the end it often all comes down to shadows and light, as mentioned before.
Some scenes will confuse, some scenes seamlessly become gameplay, some puzzles will disorient you, while others will make you feel like an accomplished gamer. The fact that Tequila Works spent years working on RiME is really demonstrated by the diverse amount of puzzles in which you partake in. There are sections where you’ll be swimming underwater and then suddenly you’re at great heights, and then there are sections where your entire world is turned upside down. If one thing’s certain, the adventure you take in RiME is not one you’ll forget.
As you near the end of the game, RiME gets sad. Very sad. Think Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, but even more depressing. RiME is in fact the very definition of depression. It all makes sense in the final scenes of the game and when you go back to replay sections of the game after the credits, and without giving anything away, prepare to cry. It’s a shame in a way that the game only lasts a few hours and that the original direction was shut down by Microsoft in the early days, as if they had of continued with this idea and made it more like Breath of the Wild with crafting, proper day/night cycles and tower defense then RiME could have been one of the best games of 2017.
RiME’s graphics style perfectly suits the story it is trying to tell. As you work your way through the world, the environments constantly change and often you go from blaring heat with bright colours to cold frosty ice to cold overcast to complete darkness in underground passageways. The game’s brightness throws your sensors off so much that you may find yourself adjusting the brightness in the options menu just to be able to see better. The game uses Unreal Engine 4, which allows for fluid animation and crisp visuals as seen in the screenshots.
The music of RiME is great, but it has to be great. In a game with no words, vague context and no combat, the sounds of RiME are almost required to be spot on, and thankfully they are. While your character can cutely hum his way through most of the game by using the yell action, the true hero of RiME’s audio is definitely its soundtrack. David Garcia Diaz worked with Tequila Studios for years now, and also produced the soundtrack for their 2009 title Deadlight.
RiME is beautifully short. It’s a game which could have been so much more, yet you’ll be happy with what it has become. It will probably win awards for story, art direction and its blissful soundtrack, but it can’t compete with titles like Horizon Zero Dawn or Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and nor should it try to. RiME is a simple puzzle solving adventure game that tells an unfolding story of sorrow, and you’ll come away from it feeling like you’ve learnt some valuable life lessons. If you’re ready for an unforgettable tale, you should definitely pick up RiME which is available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC, with a Nintendo Switch version due to be released later in 2017.
- Amazing environments with puzzles that actually feel like they’re a part of the world
- A story with no words, but also one you’ll remember forever.
- Disappointingly short for a game that’s been in development for nigh on a decade
- Bit glitchy here and there, but still a solid adventure.