Rime, the latest title from developer Tequila Works, is a fun, deeply moving puzzle adventure that calls to mind titles like Journey and The Last Guardian. In it, we follow a boy’s journey around an island where he searches for answers regarding who he is, where he came from, how he got to the island in the first place, and exactly what is even going on? Throughout the roughly ten hour playtime of Rime, our boy hero will not only traverse different areas by engaging in some platforming, but also use his (and, by extension, the player’s) brain to solve puzzles that have just the right amount of challenge. It is this mixture of puzzles and platforming, as well as the mystery regarding the game’s plot, that makes Rime such a unique journey to experience.
Where the hell is everybody?!
Rime starts off confusingly enough, with a young boy wearing a red cape waking up on a mysterious island. As you gain control of the boy, who starts off walking slow due to him being apparently shipwrecked, you will slowly get adjusted to his walking speed, which grows steadily faster as he recovers. Walking around the island, you’ll notice you can’t go everywhere you want to (indeed, I could not swim around some of the island’s perimeters due to being blocked off by jellyfish), but there’s still plenty to explore.
If the player is ever confused about where to go, a friendly fox, whom you meet early on, is usually perched by the area you need to go to, barking to get your attention. These cues were helpful to a player like me, who is always venturing off the beaten path to find 100% of the collectibles in any given game.
The title’s visuals are quite striking, at times
It won’t be long until you come to the main crux of Rime‘s gameplay: puzzles and platforming. The puzzles in Rime are some of the game’s greatest strengths, because they are not infuriatingly difficult to figure out, but require just enough thought that you have genuine “AHA!” moments when you complete them.
There are a variety of puzzles, too: the boy will have to use his voice to shatter orbs of light to defeat shadow beasts, taunt boars with fruit in order to get them to break thorny tree bark, move cranks to advance time so the sky’s lighting will activate a hidden door within a wall, hum a little tune to light up dark caverns, swim underwater and pop oxygen bubbles so he doesn’t drown (just like Sonic!), and fill the sky with black smoke to create thunder storms and smite one of the game’s most anxiety producing foes. Rime‘s puzzles are easily some of my favorites in the genre.
Speaking of anxiety producing foes, here’s the bastard right here!
Sadly, however, Rime‘s platforming is not as tight as its puzzles. The boy’s jump arc and distance can be difficult to gauge, so there were times where I jumped off a ledge too early and plummeted to my death. Running into any wall will cause the boy to fall down and slowly get back to his feet, which I found to be a mild annoyance. You can also only climb walls that have moss growing on them; otherwise, the boy will not be able to grab hold. This wasn’t an issue to me; however, the finicky climbing controls were.
There were times where I was climbing a wall upwards and when I pressed X to jump higher up, the boy would jump right to his doom instead. This didn’t happen enough times to hamper my experience with Rime, but it did happen enough times for me to notice it as an issue other players will experience. Thankfully, death in Rime is not an issue, as the player will respawn nearby in an instant. Checkpoints are also not too few and far between.
These shadow beasts are quite terrifying
My other favorite part of Rime? The enemies. Though there are only two types of foe in the game, they are both equally memorable. The shadow beasts, who resemble cloaked people, are absolutely terrifying. Initially, they flee from your mere presence, lulling you into a false sense of security. The next time you meet, however, they suck the very soul from your body if you hang around them too long. If you try to use the boy’s voice to distract them, it comes out almost like a death rattle; positively unsettling. Only orbs of light can defeat them, but they only do so temporarily.
The other main enemy, a giant bird that shows up in the 2nd area of the title, is superbly nerve wracking. He hangs in the air and as you run around the area, the screen gradually turns redder and redder as he prepares to swoop down and grab you. You’ll need to head for shade so the bird doesn’t see you, and only a lightning storm of your own creation can kill him outright. Both the bird and shadow beasts are uniquely creepy in their own way, and I loved how Rime used different, fun mechanics for the player to combat these dark creatures.
Every area of Rime is quite expansive and memorable
Rime‘s plot might interest some fans while alienating others. I personally enjoyed heading to each new area of the island, seeing snippets of the boy’s backstory as he entered a new area, but Tequila Works purposefully tries to keep details as vague as possible. You may enjoy this, you may not.
There are optional keyholes that show you drawings that pertain to the boy’s upbringing and provides clues to his backstory, but even those can lead to more questions than answers. Friends you meet like the fox and other beings you encounter towards Rime‘s endgame (that I won’t spoil here) will bring you both joy and sadness, yet you will end the game not fully knowing who they were or why they helped the boy on his journey. The last area of Rime, and its epilogue, will throw everyone for a loop, causing you to exclaim “WTF?!” while tears steam down your face.
This is where the heavy emotions start happening
In the end, Rime is an unforgettable journey that needs to be experienced at least once. Though its platforming and controls are not as fine tuned as one would like them to be, its story, characters, and puzzles are quite strong and will stay with you long after you complete the game. The plot will leave you guessing, hit you with the feels once it ends (the orchestral soundtrack also helps pull on the heartstrings), and there is an incentive to jump back into Rime again to hunt for any collectibles you might have missed (the Chapter Select option makes finding the rest of the optional items easier, as well as the game saving your collection progress even after the credits roll). Memorable, tearful, and occasionally humorous, Rime was definitely worth its long development time.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.