Our young protagonist finds himself washed up on the shores of an unknown rocky island. Seagulls and crabs move about the shoreline, as you find yourself waking up with nothing more than a torn red cape fluttering in the breeze. Leading up to this, we are teased that a massive thunderstorm out in the ocean is the case for the young boy’s current dilemma, but the cryptic narrative of exactly what happened is told throughout the experience. Without any combat options, players are tasked with solving environmental puzzles throughout, as the story unfolds through flashback sequences and visual depiction. Even days after completing the game and the credits began to roll, I found myself still in awe at the visual and audio euphoria that I had experienced, not to mention an ending that will be talked about for years to come.
RiME doesn’t feature any spoken dialogue outside of the audio sounds that come out of Enu, the young boy. As you explore the first area, you’ll come across a magical fox, acting as a guide to where you should be going to move the game forward. You’ll also see an unknown hood characters every now and again off in the distance. Enu can move boxes around the environment, either to activate certain puzzles or to reach previously unreachable locations. Your controls are limited to running, jumping and interacting with set pieces in the environment. It’s a simple premise, but the way RiME executes is half the charm. Being able to yell out, Enu can activate glowing statues, opening doors or switches, destroy vessels blocking your path, or even causing nearby fires to burn even brighter. If you aren’t near anything context sensitive areas, Enu will hum a little tune, a small touch that adds character and personality to the game.
The various locations in the game range from tight corridors that essentially funnels you down a linear path to wide-open areas that feature various hidden collectibles and allow you to gaze as the game’s gorgeous visuals. Each new area you reach features a different type of puzzle, keeping the experience fresh and exciting without feeling tedious. Although most of the solutions were easily identifiable, I found myself having to stop and think a few times on some of the more challenging puzzles. I enjoyed the approach, as RiME benefits by keeping players advancing, and not having to spend hours to solve extravagant puzzles. It’s meant to be an experience, similar to the Team Ico titles or Journey. Similar to the Uncharted series, climbable ledges are easily recognizable, but finding the collectibles requires you to venture off the beaten path. These unlock emblems, toys and even new outfits for Enu. I only found a few pieces during my first playthrough, and it’s the core mechanic for playing through the game multiple times.
One of the best aspects in RiME is that each locale has a different feeling, something that caught me off guard. From the opening sequence, you are left on a sunny portion of a rocky island, but as you explore the sun will set, turning day to a jaw-dropping beautiful starry night. Other locations completely alter the game’s setting and mood, turning the pleasant outlook of survival to one of trepidation with tomb-like underground temples barely lit by greenish flames. The game’s grand orchestral score defines the narrative moments in the game.
There goes seem to be some glaring issues when running the game on a PlayStation 4 Pro. Although the game does take advantage of the more powerful PS4 hardware with improved shadows, antialiasing, and better textures, the framerate never truly reaches a steady 60fps. There is noticeable hitching as the game loads new areas, sometimes it is more prominent than others, but never did it become bad enough that I wanted to stop playing through the game. Hopefully, Tequila Works adds an option for toning down the visual improvements in favor for a steady framerate.
There is no other way to say it, but RiME has certainly surprised me, in its ambitious narrative approach, enjoyable environmental puzzles and stunning visual/audio combination. The journey lasted much longer than I was expecting, roughly six to eight hours depending on your playstyle. Seeking out the collectibles is the main reason to explore the game multiple times.Note: RiME was reviewed on PlayStation 4. A digital copy of the game provided by the publisher.