Video Game Review: RiME (PS4, 2017) is a Minimalist Dream

RiME is a game that plays it’s cards close to it’s chest. Waking on a mostly deserted island, the games protagonist is seemingly lost, and must find his way through the island, conquering puzzles as he travels. RiME is largely guided by its mystery, as players seek to discover the secrets of the boy, the dangers of the island, and what lies beyond the next puzzle.

The world of RiME feels distinct and alive, as players travel across a plethora of gorgeous landscapes and interact with a variety of animals and environments. The island becomes a character unto itself as its mysteries unfold, and players are confronted by various obstacles. From the moment I began RiME, I was struck by its unique visual style, and the way its sweeping soundtrack transported me into its world. The style is unlike most games, crafting a genuinely unique and appealing world for players to journey into. With very little to guide you, RiME presents a beautiful, minimalist tale, and one that stuck with me. Comparisons to Journey are easy and obvious, yet RiME feels like an altogether different beast. Both games explore ideas of spirituality and provide players with wonderfully profound experiences, and RiME accomplishes this through some unique and diverse mechanics.

The puzzles in RiME were highly accomplished, requiring a certain degree of player ingenuity and thinking. There were certain puzzles that stumped me initially, but after careful consideration, I was able to overcome these obstacles. Moreover, the puzzles in RiME never feel like a tired re-tread of old tropes, with each challenge presenting something new to the player. A common pitfall of recent indie puzzlers has been a reliance on classic, well-trodden puzzles, but RiME avoids this with ease, carving out its own story with well-balanced and original challenges. Throughout the game, players are required to use the boy’s voice to unleash the souls of statues littered throughout the island. This accomplishes a range of tasks included lighting paths, unsealing ancient doors and lowering platforms. My favourite of these tasks included a brilliant sequence wherein the boy travels through a darkened cave, using only his voice, and the light it creates to guide him. Through a process of trial and error, the boy is able to make his way through a suspended maze and reach the light on the other side. RiME features several sequences utilising its various game mechanics, each of them bringing with them a range of emotions.

While RiME encourages exploration throughout its gorgeous island world, and presents a range of collectables to encourage players to stray off the linear path of the main story, I often found myself sticking to the main story. This was in part because of the intense mystery behind the origins of the boy and the island itself, a mystery that had me hooked from the beginning. That being said, the relatively linear nature of the game disappointed me somewhat, as puzzles had to be tackled in a particular order, and in some cases I felt that the game actively discouraged exploration of the open world setting. As the boy travels throughout the world, he trails the footsteps of a mysterious hooded figure, one that presents itself with such intrigue that I found myself leaping ahead to find more. That curiosity meant that I missed several of the items available for collection, but also provided me with an encouragement to play again. Those concerned by the length of the game, or a lack of replayability need not apply – not only is RiME’s main story meaty enough to justify the price tag, it encourages a second playthrough, particularly for those who wish to explore all of the hidden depths of the island.

As I mentioned earlier, RiME is largely guided by its brilliant score, and it is through this score, and several beautiful island sequences, that the game elicits its most powerful emotions. In one particular sequence, I was swept up by the beauty of the soundtrack as the boy completed an island-wide puzzle and watched on as the pieces all connected like an elegant Rube Goldberg machine. Each puzzle carries with it a sense of satisfaction as the island comes to life around the boy.

While RiME explores the curiosity and wonder of the boy on his journey throughout the island with ease, it also does well in its darker sequences, particularly the second stage, where the boy is dogged by a particularly aggressive giant bird. These sequences are genuinely frightening, with the boy required to hop quickly between covers lest the bird dive down and pluck him from the sky. Equal parts frustrating and satisfying, this puzzle had my heart pounding, and took several frantic moments to finally get right. Balancing both sheer delight and suspense, RiME does a brilliant job of manipulating the emotions of its players and taking them along for the ride.

Travelling throughout the world of RiME was at times a frustrating experience, more often than not because of its inherent mystery. While the minimalist nature of the game intrigued me, and I often felt that the lack of guiding story sapped my attention. As each puzzle is completed, there is a sense of satisfaction, but also a tiny bit of frustration. The puzzles may lead you further into the mystery, but the answer never seems particularly close, and RiME refuses to give away its secrets as you journey through the island. This inherent mystery, and the eventual payoff doesn’t quite hit the right notes, and left me with a mild sense of frustration. Despite this, I enjoyed the journey that RiME took me on, from its sweeping island paths, to the darkest caves and across oceans. RiME isn’t a game for everyone, but for those that loved Journey, there is plenty to love here.

Score: 8.0 out of 10
Highlights: Beautiful and unique level design, soaring soundtrack, neat and balanced puzzles
Lowlights: Minimal story, minor graphical and movement issues
Developer: Tequila Works, Tantalus Media
Publisher: Grey Box Games
Release Date: Out Now
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Windows PC

Reviewed on Playstation 4 Pro.

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