Publisher: Grey Box, Six Foot
Developer: Tequila Works
Platform: XboX One
Availability: PC, Switch, PS4, Xbox One
“RIME is a journey, but unlike Journey, it does have its share of problems.”
The first thing you’ll take away from the game is its gorgeous visuals. It’s actually appealing in sight and sound. You play the game as a lone hero; nothing super distinguishable about you save for your bright red cape. The world is rendered with beautiful cell-shaded environments, and it is very easy to get lost in the scenery and vistas, and overall scope of some of the architecture.
You start the adventure mysteriously landed on an island with no direction on what to do next. You can wade around in the water a bit, or walk along the sand scoping out the crabs. Or you can start climbing the rocks and cliffs to get your adventure started.
It’s what lays underneath this pretty face that lie the cracks.
RIME gives you no HUD or any real directions. But it will give you clever little hints as to where you’re supposed to be going, whether it be an ominous red cloaked figure off in the distance, or a light blue beacon shining into the sky. This will draw your attention in the right direction.
As the lone hero in this story, you really have no one to talk to, so there’s no dialogue, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be using your voice. Besides your hands, your voice will be your primary tool, as it appears to have some special abilities throughout the game. The game takes this “emote” mechanic right from JOURNEY, or ABZU.
Yelling as vases will shatter them. Yelling at torches or braziers will ignite them. Yelling at the little idol statues will activate them to reveal your path ahead. This is the main mechanic of the game besides platforming and exploring. If you try your voice when it’s not needed, you’ll just happily hum to yourself. At least that’s something besides silence.
At the end of the first area, after activating the necessary Idols, you will awake a Fox. This little guy is your exclusive guide for the rest of the adventure. He’ll run ahead to the next area, leading the way, and then happily yap at you when he needs to draw your attention. This mechanic doesn’t always work however, as he’s small and therefor easy to miss, and he’ll only yap at you when you’re in proximity. Sometimes he’ll vanish on you and appear at the next checkpoint, leaving you wandering around a large area trying to find out where that next checkpoint is.
The puzzles themselves are fairly intuitive and straight-forward in design. Light is the primary theme for all of the puzzles, and when you yell at torches, they’ll ignite and these little blue orbs you’ll find in walls are the main mechanic for switches. These you can pick up and carry around, and these are what activate the doors, or passages. They’ll also explode into a ball of light and defeat any strange enemies, when you yell at it. You’ll use 2 or 3 light orbs on pedestals in a single room, and arrange them to create specific shadows. Some of the puzzles work quite well.
There are also a few mind-bending puzzles that had me scratching my head a bit. In the latter areas of the adventure, there are a few rooms with a twist. Picture a large, long room. On either side, there’s two floors connected by stairs, and there’s dark hallways attached, that go deeper into the walls. If you go down any of the hallways on the bottom floor, turn a corner and then exit, you’ll find yourself on the opposite side, on the top floor.
Another long hallway area found that if you ran in the same direction, with the camera facing forward, there would be no end to the hallway, just the same area on repeat.
In yet another, final area, there’s a tall mine-shaft that you have to scale up for quite a ways. At the end is a set of stairs, and this would have you arrive at the bottom of the room you just left. These puzzles were the most interesting aspect of the game, by far, and it’s a shame that these were so few, and so late in the story.
The game does suffer from a few problems. Visually, I mentioned that the game is beautiful. Lush and vibrant colours, clever use of tones for the game mechanics, and just the scale of the architecture and camera use is impressive. This does impact the frame-rate at times. When turning the camera too fast, or if there’s a mechanic in play that’s activating, the game will stutter. Doesn’t help that it feels like the game runs at a not so smooth 30fps generally. And this is on the Xbox One and Xbox One S.
Another issue is the lack of direction at times. The Fox guide helps, sure, if you can find him. And there are a few different colour cues, or beacons to follow. But other than that, there’s not a lot of direction. Some of the areas are quite large, and a few large underwater segments as well, where you’ll need to find water bubbles just to stay under and navigate. This does encourage exploration, but as I was playing, I felt discouraged as I was quite anxiously worried that I might get lost and not know how to advance. So whenever I was given any semblance or direction, I would follow it explicitly, and not risk getting sidetracked.
Thinking about it now, this is the first time a game has ever made me feel stressed in an environment, where I didn’t want to explore for fear of getting lost. Most games I’m quite the adventurer, always willing to turn down the wrong corridor in hopes of finding come supplies.
Tequila Works has done a great job in creating a believable world, and beautifully rendered it. Considering it was built on the Unreal Engine, I was hoping for a little more fluidity in the gameplay and animations, but that could just be chocked up to a smaller development team. The puzzles are sufficient, but nothing trulely new or inspirational. Nothing we haven’t really seen before in similar games, however the mind-bending rooms were a pleasant addition that had me stumped. Navigational cues could use some work, but that could also be a patience issue with the player. At 5 hours or so in length, depending on how much exploring you do, its not that long, but if you can make it to the end, you’re in for a heart-wrenching finish, and I hope you enjoy the ride.
The achievements are pretty standard affair. Story-based achievements, plus some hidden areas. Some scattered collectibles as well. A lot of them are easy to miss as there’s areas that become inaccessible after you pass that area. Now that I’ve completed the story once, and I’m a little more comfortable with the layout, I’ll probably go through it a 2nd time to explore more and unlock some more achievements. First play through only netted me 325/1000G.
Careful Steps (Don’t smash the eggs) – 25G
Dark and quiet (Complete the labyrinth without making a sound) – 25G