A Look at the Latest: RiME (PS4)

RiME is part of a growing breed of indie art games where they plop you down in a beautiful world and let the story unfurl through the area’s design and simple cutscenes rather than having dialogue carry it. It’s certainly in good company, with Journey at the head of the pack in showing its a set-up that can work excellently, and when I took at look at RiME, I immediately thought of the game Ico. It’s not quite either of course, even if it does play into a few of the tropes of this small subgenre of adventure games, and that make certain things easy to predict. Certainly it doesn’t ruin the experience to expect them, and the game does have a few surprises to salvage the obvious telegraphing in other places.

RiME begins with a young boy washing up on the shore of an island which seems to be mostly uninhabited. The game really doesn’t do much else in setting up the story from there, but as you wander this strange island as that boy, you’ll end up following a strange little fox that leads you down the right path, all while a strange man in a red robe who seems to be watching your every move. The game isn’t big on explicitly stating a lot, but it does say the important parts necessary for you to understand it, and I was frankly satisfied with the game’s conclusion and would have been even if I hadn’t picked up on the optional collectibles and secrets that will give you a better understanding of what’s going on. Speaking of those collectibles, while some of them are just your typical objects to find for the sake of finding them, the game is surprisingly nice in giving you different costumes for your character rather frequently through the game. After playing quite a few games where you only get the alternate costumes for beating the main story, it was nice to be given the goodies during your main playthrough so you can appreciate them instead of having to replay the game to even see them.

As you explore this island, your goal seems to mainly be heading towards a giant tower with a keyhole shape in it. To get to it and to get through it and its related locations, you will be asked to solve puzzles that focus a lot on things like viewing stuff from the right perspective, lining up shadows, and activating switches properly to make the area possible to navigate. And climbing. The game has lots and lots of climbing! These navigational puzzles usually aren’t too difficult and you’ll see the way onward easily, but dialing them back a bit certainly could have gone in the game’s favor. The climbing is forgivable when it’s part of going off the beaten path for a secret, but it appears rather too much during required moments, with some areas boiling down to just moving your character to the right points rather than being made to do anything challenging. The actual puzzles do require some thought at least, and more than a few of them involve your character’s other main skill besides climbing: screaming. The nameless main character can yell at all kinds of things to get different effects, the island full of noise-activated switches that require you to learn the range of your voice and how to potentially get a sound chain going by yelling at other objects. Many optional tasks like lighting torches and breaking pots are also done by just yelling at them, which is just too silly not to like without straining the game’s serene and somewhat somber tone. Yes, a game where you scream a lot can still manage to be serene! The kid’s got pretty decent volume control and will hum a song instead if you aren’t near something that is scream-activated.

While there isn’t really any fighting in the game, there is quite a bit of danger. Besides just falling off from too high, certain enemies will appear that you must avoid. Dying is more a slap on the wrist than a real punishment, but it does set you back a bit and serves as its own puzzle by way of navigating the area safely. Really, the prevalence of navigational puzzles was likely done to help sell the game’s tone. With a lovely art style, calm music, and a hauntingly empty world that is at the same time filled with visual splendor, RiME does make a place you’ll want to explore. It does take a while to get the ball rolling with its rather open starting area, but the game has a good way of pointing you down the right path for the most part. It even has a few cheeky achievements for doing things besides playing normally, which I found was a nice way of acknowledging you for going against the beaten path a bit. While I won’t say the gameplay or story are exactly groundbreaking, RiME’s design means they make a good fit for what it is going for as a whole. It’s a fine adventure even when it trends towards the simple or predictable.

THE VERDICT: RiME is an invitation to explore. The simple wordless opening is evidence of that. You gradually find your footing on this mysterious island and are slowly guided towards the path of finding out the reason you are here and what the island itself is all about. Along the way you’ll see lovely environments and solve puzzles that are a bit more like brain teasers than difficult challenges of the mind, but it gives you enough to do that the setting isn’t wasted on doing busywork. It does have a bit too much climbing though that it never really improves upon or makes perilous in any way.

And so, I give RiME for the Playstation 4…

A GOOD rating. It was probably a bit telling that the game was pretty good when the main objection is the character climbs around too much, but for the most part, what RiME does, it does well. The setting is well designed and intriguing, the puzzles make you think a bit, and the game keeps things varied on the most part save its tendency towards navigation puzzles and ones solved by screaming right. It doesn’t do any of these to the point it really sets itself apart or makes a huge impression, but it does hold a fun experience for those who are interested. The game gives you exactly what it needs to while also having a few moments of special charm to them even if it isn’t doing anything particularly new or unique.

RiME might not reach the heights of the game Journey, but it is still an enjoyable journey in its own right.

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