RiME has a lot in common with Team ICO’s, The Last Guardian, most obviously the fact that it has been stuck in development hell for what feels like donkey’s years. I don’t know what it is about emotionally-driven puzzle games starring young boys, but man, they’re obviously a lot tougher to make than anyone would have expected.
Beyond the drawn out development cycle, like The Last Guardian, RiME is also home to a young protagonist who stumbles around like a surprisingly athletic alcoholic, some relatively gentle puzzling, a very thoughtful tone and of course, utterly gorgeous, visually sublime landscapes. In fact, it takes quite a bit from other games in the….puzzle-emotion-platforming genre? Ok, I don’t know what you’d call the genre precisely, but you know the games I mean; ICO, The Last Guardian, Journey etc – RiME takes plenty of elements shared by many of these games and creates something undoubtedly familiar, but nonetheless unique.
It arguably lacks that special something found in many of those games, and it certainly doesn’t bring anything particularly new to the table, but the long gestating RiME remains a thoughtful, beguiling and utterly gorgeous adventure. The narrative (or lack thereof) is arguably a tad too nebulous for its own good, but the emotional undercurrents and exciting sense of mystery prove to be strong driving forces in a game all but devoid of traditional storytelling techniques.
As for the gameplay itself, well, it’s the expected combination of environmental puzzles and platforming. Beyond the ability to activate certain statues by shouting at them, RiME’s diminutive hero has nothing in the way of particularly unique abilities – he jumps, he runs, he pushes, he pulls. That’s about it. So yeah, it’s hardly Mario 64, but the almost over-animation of the protagonist (much like that of the boy in The Last Guardian), does lend movement and traversal a unique sense of drama and weight that might have otherwise been lacking. The puzzles themselves are inventive enough, and while none are overtly challenging (few match the genius of Team ICO’s best work), what is here is mostly very good with the mechanics thankfully lacking the sense of frustration that often permeated the worst moments of The Last Guardian.
While it is almost impossible to speak about RiME without doing so in comparison to its most obvious inspirations, there is one big difference that helps set it apart from its peers, and that’s its gloriously colourful art direction. Rather than opting for the kind of earthy, occasionally tragic worlds created by Team ICO, Tequila Works have crafted a world full of colour and light. Sure, it has its dark corners, and the sense of melancholy undercutting it all is almost palpable, but there is no underestimating the effect such a vividly crafted game world has on an experience that often struggles to find its own identity.
With no real combat and puzzles that rarely provide much in the way of genuine challenge, some might be slightly disappointed by RiME’s overall lack of difficulty, but as is the case in game’s such as Journey, it really is more about the….uhhhh, well, journey I suppose. This is a mostly relaxing game accompanied by a beautiful soundtrack that is to be experienced rather than played. There is plenty to do of course, and some of the puzzles might stump you briefly, but for the most part, RiME is all about taking in the world around you and drawing off the emotional connections created throughout this brief but captivating adventure.
It lacks the true majesty and intangible magic of its most obvious inspirations, but despite falling short of Journey and Team ICO’s best work, RiME remains a moving, memorable and utterly gorgeous adventure, one with the potential to draw a deep sense of emotional connection from the most subtle of invitations. Despite its lengthy development cycle, it could still do with a tad more polish (the frame rate is inconsistent and some of the platforming is a disappointingly fiddly), but to criticise it too heavily for such minor technical hiccups would be to miss the point – this is an experience to let wash over you rather than struggle against – a journey rather than a destination.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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