Xbox

RiME Review: Loss At Sea


RiME is the type of game that seeks to do something bigger than provide the player with an enjoyable gameplay experience. Tequila Gameworks wants to help players learn to cope with a life event that is sobering and arguably a fate worse than death. While there are some issues with how the game moves players through its gut wrenching journey and the lack of challenges presented to players, the game’s has more successful parts outnumber its flawed pieces.

In Tequila Gameworks’s RiME, a Spanish game studio based out of Madrid, you control a nameless boy who has washed up on the shore of a mysterious island. He is accompanied by an equally mysterious fox that helps the player along their way. The first thing all players will notice is the stunning art direction, jaw dropping vistas and overload of color that is RiME’s island. It was frustrating to wait four years since RiME’s announcement back in 2013 but every moment of that was worth it if it helped deliver this final visuals.

The character designs are excessively colorful and charming.

RiME cannot escape the games it is inspired by. There is a strong Ico vibe initially, since you’re playing on as a boy in a mysterious place and you solve some block =pushing puzzles but that’s where the similarities stop. Players can make the boy jump, roll (which really serves no purpose) and shout. Shouting with the triangle button (on PS4) sets small fires ablaze and activates items to solve puzzles. You will spend most of your time platforming and there is no challenging platforming. The game is very forgiving when it comes to making jumps, often bringing the boy several inches closer to his intended target. This isn’t a detraction from the overall experience, no, but the platforming in RiME could have been deeper and more original.

The game is divided into several chapters, each with their own vibe. One chapter may require you to explore a large overworld and solve particular puzzles while another has you running from an always-present monster. There are several collectibles to find, most of which are well hidden throughout your adventure. None of the puzzles are all that hard, they are actually quite easy. Many of the puzzles will have the player moving blocks to lineup parts of the environment to open new pathways or doors. Additionally, there are hidden pieces of the game’s backstory though it is fairly easy to miss these.

Yes, the gameplay is not that original. There are a few puzzles that present moderate appeal but nothing to write home about but there is nothing offensively flawed about how the game unfolds. In my six hour journey, I never felt bored or frustrated. The game’s puzzles are more than serviceable but ultimately forgettable.

There are some tense gameplay moments, especially during the game’s middle section.

The only other issue with RiME is some serious frame rate issues that pop up from time to time. It will drop significantly for 3 to 5 seconds but never when you’re doing something important, like avoiding an enemy or while making a tricky jump between platforms. It is disappointing to see the frame rate tank at times but its rare enough and occurs in the least important moments so its hard to hold it against it THAT much.

RiME’s strong points are its story, visuals, themes, soundtrack and pacing. The game never stays in one area longer than it should and only a few sections are mildly obtuse on what to do. There isn’t a lot to explore, sure, but its clear from the beginning that RiME is going to be a fairly linear adventure. That said, this linear adventure offers several unique environments and a feeling of isolation that can be equally mysterious and creepy.

You will want to find out what awaits the boy and his fox around every corner and each new chapter presents a new location and set of challenges. The visuals, music, characters and art combine to give players something similar to Hayao Miyazaki’s more somber films, taking the audience on a grand adventure but while confronting an unpleasant but inescapable life lesson. RiME does not overstay its welcome and its incredible atmosphere makes up for it being a bit easier than you would initially hope. Additionally, the mediterranean setting is a welcome change from games that have tried the eerie isolated third person adventure genre.

The soundtrack may be the best I’ve heard in 2017. It is beautifully orchestrated and ramps up in tone at all the right times. If a moment is particularly sad, the music will kick-in at the right moment to not just tug at your heartstrings but shake their foundation. The same can be said about the game’s story, which builds nicely to a conclusion that I did not see coming.

WARNING STORY SPOILERS TURN BACK

Spoiler

RiME’s major theme is accepting loss. Without revealing too much, the boy’s journey to figure out how he got to the island teaches the boy and the player to accept losing those that are important to you. A final plot twist up-ends your narrative expectations, providing a really shocking moment. I mentioned earlier that the game’s deals with a tragic life event that you can argue is worse than death and that is the experience of living on after losing someone you loved. Coping with that kind of loss is something everyone has to deal with eventually but RiME tackles the subject of losing the most important person in your life.

I did recently lose my uncle and watching my father deal with that death, regardless of my own feelings, is a heart-breaking and sobering thing to witness. RiME wants to help players with letting go of their loss. The game’s credits contain messages from people who lost loved ones and messages from people who knew they were going to die, pushing the theme of learning to accept your personal loss even after you stop pressing buttons.

[collapse]

STORY SPOILERS ARE IN THE PARAGRAPH ABOVE, CONTINUE READING BELOW TO AVOID THEM

While RiME may not have above-average gameplay, the story and world make up for a majority of the missed opportunities with how it plays. RiME is a beautiful adventure that deals with a subject that I would not wish on my worst enemy. Visually it is a tour-de-force of superb art direction and the soundtrack perfectly underscores every happy, optimistic and melancholy moment. RiME may not innovate in terms of actual gameplay but it is a game you should play before you die if you ask me. If I have to compare it to Fumito Ueda’s legendary resume of games I’d say its most significant similarity to his games is that it truly moves you and gives you an experience to remember, beyond any action sequences a game could ever provide.

Final Thoughts

RiME does have some minor frame-rate issues and it lacks challenging or even original gameplay but it largely makes up for this with a powerful narrative, stunning visuals and a near-perfect soundtrack. I strongly recommend you play RiME on whatever platform you can at some point in your life.

Overall Score 85%