Platform: PS4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC, Switch (future release)
A video game’s first impression is extremely important to me. Everything from the menu design, opening cutscenes, and the first moments of interactivity are all excellent indications of what you’re about to get into. Some of my favorite games also happen to have some of my favorite introductory moments, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
In the case of Rime, its first impressions are a mixed bag. On the one hand, it looks just as beautiful as the trailers and screenshots seemed to indicate. On the other, the first hour or so of the game is almost entirely devoid of any meaningful gameplay elements. Luckily, it quickly redeems itself and slowly builds to an emotionally powerful payoff, but it takes a bit of work to get there.
Taking It Slow
The inspiration from thatgamecompany’s award-winning indie darling Journey is abundantly clear in Rime. The main character has a red scarf draped across his/her neck, the game is a gradual journey towards large, illuminated areas and towers, and the narrative is far from the focus of it all (at least until the very end, in the case of Rime).
Everything starts with the child awaking on a beach alone and confused. You’ll spend the entirety of Rime’s 6-8 hours of gameplay in a constant search for meaning. Why are you here? What is the purpose of it all? What are you doing and what are you looking for? Where is that fox leading you? You won’t find specific answers to all of these questions, but by the end, everything will make a lot more sense.
I don’t want to spoil things, but Rime has one of the most emotionally powerful and impactful endings I’ve seen in a game in quite a long time. However, part of the punch is negated due to how poorly framed it is within the context of the rest of the game. In hindsight, there are hints, but the breadcrumbs weren’t laid out well enough for the big payoff to really make my jaw drop. Adding in a few more narrative threads to pull on within the meat of the game would have helped. That being said, it’s still an intriguing ending that dramatically improves the game as a whole once the credits start to roll.
One Step At A Time
Simply existing in the world of Rime is an inherently pleasant experience. Near the start, the waves crash against cliffsides and the deep blue colors of the ocean are mesmerizing. I often found myself standing at the edge of a hill overlooking the water just listening to the wonderful ambient sounds and soft piano music.
Once you move deeper, you’ll adventure beneath the surface of the water and swim among the fish, explore dark caverns, and evade the prying eyes of evil creatures. There isn’t any explicit combat in Rime, but there is certainly plenty of danger to avoid.
The actual “game” part of Rime – that is, the parts that ask you to directly interact with and do things in the game world – offer enough intrigue to keep you engaged but never overwhelm with needless complexity. Puzzles involve shifting shadows and sliding blocks, while platforming usually consists of looking for the telltale white-edged cliff faces to grab onto. Mix in light exploration and often-tedious stealth segments and that’s really all there is to it.
Rhyme or Reason
Even though the puzzles in Rime are typically simple enough, that doesn’t mean you’ll always have the answers readily available. Due to occasionally poor visual design cues, some of the simplest moments caused me to get stuck because things were just utterly hidden in plain sight. It’s the difference between feeling smart for finally figuring it out (such as in one of Breath of the Wild’s hundreds of shrines) and feeling dumb for not seeing the obvious answer sooner.
I can’t issue a blanket recommendation for Rime because it’s just not a game that everyone is going to enjoy playing. But if you can stick through to the end and have insight to grasp the story that’s being told, you’d be hard-pressed to not feel a sudden weight of somber realization descend upon your heart. Rime is a flawed, but charming, adventure.