It’s Tricky to Knock this Rime
Developer: Tequila Works
Publisher: Grey Box Games
Reviewed on: PS4 (Review code provided)
If your indie game doesn’t have a silent child protagonist in it is it even a proper indie game? Perhaps not, but tropes aside Rime is a beautiful platform puzzler worthy of your time. It instantly feels warm, welcoming and safe, as aforementioned quiet youth Enu awakens on a desert island with no explanation of how or why he’s there.
The lack of tutorialisation here is perhaps intended to add to the sense that Enu is indeed lost and without a clue what to do either. You’re therefore left to figure it out together. Initially you and your tiny leading character are given some fairly basic puzzles and a little bit of climbing to deal with, giving you the feeling of playing Breath of the Wild but on a smaller scale.
Perhaps though, in terms of comparisons to existing properties, sandy explore-em-up Journey might be more appropriate. Rime is more puzzle-based and challenging than that, but still pulls a fairly similar line in art direction and picturesque landscapes. The visuals are cell shaded, and while far from pixel-perfect are warm and evocative; the flow of the tide and the glint of the sun from a polished surface, and the sounds of nature and the environment, make the island setting fully believable and immersive as you set about exploring.
If you listen to the NGB podcast I discussed this on, I was only about an hour in and I described Rime as being quite a nice, safe pre-bedtime game. There’s no ‘death’ scenes, for example; if you plummet off a cliff or miss a jump the screen simply flips to black before you hit the ground, and you come around back on the ledge you jumped from, dazed but intact. If it stayed on this level for it’s duration, as I feared it would, it would probably get quite dull. As it is, there’s a surprising arc in the game that leads Enu to far darker places. There’s still a minor sinister edge right at the beginning, as you find yourself perennially watched from afar by a faceless figure in a red cloak, who disappears when you get near. No spoilers obviously, but what seemed like a pleasant distraction of a game turns into something far more interesting.
And the puzzles you go through as you get nearer to the mystery are enjoyable, too. Again, much like Zelda, you find yourself frequently walking into a room, looking at the variables available for opening a door or gaining a key and coming up with nothing. It’s only by careful consideration and occasional trial and error that you’ll find the solution rather than it being obvious from the beginning; the mark of a good videogame puzzle.
Solving puzzles is done largely by carrying things, securing keys and using your voice. Yes, much like an angry middle-aged lady demanding to see a manager, Enu simply shouts at things until they do what he wants them to do. What reaction you get in each situation depends on what’s around you; shouting will often increase the vociferousness of nearby fires or unleash trails of energy to trigger switches. In other situations, Enu hums an ominous semi-tone melody, sings tunefully, or sometimes just verbally shrugs. I liked this as a mechanic; it evolves as you go through the game, and adds a pleasant aural element to the game beyond just flipping switches with your hands like a sucker.
It’s little additions like this that make a game something better than the average, and Rime has a few of these indeed. When leaving the sea or running downhill, for example, you get an awkward child-like running animation that made me smile every time.
You’re not entirely alone, even from the start. Aside from the red-hooded figure, there’s a few animals dotted about, which can sometimes be shooed or lured to help break barriers or gain access to collectables. One of these, a sort of stretched, jovial fox, acts as a guide of sorts through the puzzles. He’s not a tremendous amount of help to be frank, just standing near things you’d already spotted and yapping really. He’s quite cute though, which only aggravates the lack of an option to pet him. A lost opportunity for bonus points here, lads, although presumably if the Tories win in June future versions of the game won’t feature this companion anyway.
Rime isn’t technically perfect; I often encountered strange pop-up on environment features, and if you get too close to those lovely landscapes they show their cracks fairly promptly. The camera can also be best described as ‘troublesome’ sometimes, and you’re not afforded much control to correct it. That said, this isn’t Call of Duty, and it’d be odd to expect that from a small title such as this.
What seems like standard indie-fare in Rime rewards your playing-time and evolves into something else. Initially warm and welcoming, albeit not overly explanatory, Rime has an edge to it that reveals itself slowly rather than throwing everything at you to begin with. Puzzles are mild chin-scratchers rather than challenging, and are often solved by using your characters voice rather than anything more standard. All in all, you’re looking at somewhere between four to six hours here depending on how adventurous you’re feeling in searching for collectables, but whatever you do it’ll be a great time in Enu’s world.
Definitely a desert island disc.