RiME‘s soundtrack slowly builds from a faint ambiance to an emotionally-gripping conclusion as you solve the game’s various puzzles; it perfectly matches the sensation of being stuck on a puzzle and then suddenly realizing the solution. The score is one of the best I’ve heard in 2017, and really sets the atmosphere for what is a beautiful experience.
The storytelling in RiME is abstract and is done through environmental clues — there aren’t any lengthy cut-scenes that stall pacing or characters whose only purpose is to provide exposition. You take control of a young boy as he makes his way across an island to a white tower in the distance, coming across paintings or sculptures that let you piece together the backstory. The storytelling, music, and art style in RiME remind me of a whimsical Hayao Miyazaki film like Howl’s Moving Castle or Spirited Away.
At first glance, RiME seems to take inspiration from a 3D Zelda game; however, the emphasis in RiME is solely on puzzle solving: there is no combat, no open world, and no characters to chat with. I appreciate how bold it is in that regard — one of the game’s main strengths is the ambiance and solitude of its world, and this would have been broken if even one character spoke to you.
Progression in RiME is mostly linear. There are plenty of beautiful vistas to stare at, but the path is always straightforward with an occasional branching-off point. Environmental puzzles will block your way, and they’re all really creative. Some puzzles have you adjusting a circular room so that it shines light onto certain blocks and others will have you lining up broken structures to unlock magical doorways. One of my favorite puzzles was on a tattered boat where I had to destroy a pillar and then manipulate a light source so that the boat’s shadow casted on two orbs but not the third.
There isn’t any combat in RiME, but a huge section of the game is dedicated to avoiding combat. During this lengthy and fantastic section, a giant bird roams the sky and will snatch you away if you’re out from cover for too long. You still had to solve puzzles and the specter of the bird overhead made shook things up quite a bit; the obvious path forward never had enough cover and always led to being snatched by the bird, so you have to climb around structures — you can climb certain objects like Nathan Drake in Uncharted — to stay in the shade.
Occasionally, RiME‘s linear path will lead you to a small hub that branches off into two or three ways. These small hubs usually have a door that’s locked with one or more keys, and each of the branching pathways will lead you to a set of puzzles that reward you with one of the required keys. It’s a nice break from the linear portions, and they’re always small enough for you to not get lost since RiME doesn’t give you a map.
I only have one issue with RiME, and it’s a nearly game-breaking issue: the performance in portable mode is atrocious. The frame rate constantly dips so low that it looks like the game is freezing every so often; it’s almost unplayable. The resolution in portable mode is so blurry that it drops its magical, Miyazaki-esque visuals to a bad-looking Wii game.
Screenshot taken in portable mode.
I’m able to get over these issue because I play my Nintendo Switch almost exclusively in docked mode, but this is rightly a deal-breaker for people that use the Switch as a handheld system. That’s a shame because RiME is an otherwise magical experience.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for RiME was provided by Sandbox Strategies for this RiME review.