Rime is a game that, on a number of levels, defies expectations. When it was first revealed, it was in the form of a Sony exclusive, but now it’s multiplatform, even coming to Nintendo Switch in the fullness of time. What followed were years of silence and the mounting supposition that the game was either being trapped in development hell or completely dead. Of course, there were the expectations of what the game was like, its colourful art style and coastal setting suggesting there might be a few hints of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker and its style of adventuring. Rime treads a somewhat different path.
As it now closes in on its release date on 26th May, all of this has come much closer into focus. There’s a kind of relief, almost, to discover that such a charming looking game is actually going to come to market. It’s doubtful we’ll ever really know what happened and why – asking the devs, they manage to dodge the question citing non-disclosure agreements – but a steadfast determination to realise their vision looks like it will be paying off.
There’s an awful lot of shouting involved in this game. You guide the young boy around the world, running to explore new areas with his ungainly gait, clambering up ledges and trying to find out just where it is that you can go. You can’t actually attack anything, and while the boy looks like a heroic adventurer, his red cape trailing behind him, he doesn’t have any weapons, not even a wooden sword to bop things in the world with. Instead he shouts, bringing his hands up to cup his mouth and amplify his “HAAA!” and while that might seem a little ineffective, it’s these shouts that resonate with some of the interactive elements of the world.
This is one of the key elements to the puzzling in the game, as you search for the little blue statues to shout at, figure out what they do and how they interact with one another. Sometimes there’s glowing balls to pick up and place on pedestals, other times there’s sound amplifying blocks that you can move around the world, trying to find just the right spot to let you trigger multiple statues at once.
Your sole companion through all of this is a small and magical fox. Its visual design, with a bright orange coat white chest, paws and tip of his tail, is more reminiscent of the idealised version of the foxes that love to rummage through your rubbish and make all sorts of horrendous noises while you’re trying to sleep at this time of the year, but its diminutive stature, its big ears and ceaseless yapping are more reminiscent of fennec foxes. But it’s magical, leaving a trail of confetti behind it as it bounds up a set of stairs, leading you in one direction before disappearing into thin air.
The opening to the game has a very mediterranean feel to it, with a deceptive brilliance to the light grey stones used that the structures are made out of, that are bleached white in the intensity of the sunlight. Though trees and bushes are green, they contrast to the brown rocks and the yellow of the grass that survives the heat. However, this is all accompanied by the gorgeously clear blue skies, the perfectly blue ocean that surrounds the island, and the sounds of the waves and seagulls that befit a coastal setting.
What we played was not the start of the game, but rather the last part of this area, with dramatic changes to come. The openness of this environment and the bright daytime makes way, through a lovely time altering puzzle, to a dark area inside or underground. Even if it weren’t dark outside, there’s no way that light can get in, and it throws you into near complete darkness at points, with only a few spatters or patterns in a luminescent paint helping to guide you through.
The boy in his red cape have a reason to keep pushing forward, chasing after a caped adult who always seems to be off in the distance. It’s this that makes me think of thatgamecompany and Giant Sparrow’s work, that there’s a story here that can build itself up on imagery and suggestion rather than lengthy exposition. Certainly, with images painted on the walls at times, they tell something of the story, suggest where you’re meant to go, what you might need to do.
This is absolutely true as the boy emerges into an area that has been ravaged by the heat of the sun. It immediately feels and looks much hotter, the world taking on more of an orange or brown tone and the sheer heat making the image shimmer. It’s not just the sun that feels so oppressive this land, but also a giant winged beast that soon comes to terrorise the boy. With just a few moments fleeing from cover to cover before my time with the game was up, I discovered that shouting’s not so useful against this creature, and without combat, it’s something that dramatically shifts the feeling of the game.
Though we ventured into new areas that hadn’t been seen previously, I still think we’re only scratching the surface with Rime. What’s nice is to see how it’s a game that has defied its long and somewhat troubled development, and I for one cannot wait to explore it some more later this year.