As the young boy with his torn red cape wakes up, he finds himself stranded and alone on a beach. It might be a gloriously sunny day with seagulls happily swooping through the sky, but it’s the calm that follows the raging storm. Having survived its own stormy path through development, Rime is finally here, and it’s anything but the washed up survivor of a proverbial shipwreck.
You’re immediately struck by this game’s beguiling charm. It’s familiar in a lot of ways, echoing the likes of The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, Breath of the Wild or more recently The Witness with its colour palette and visual style. Similarly, parallels will be drawn to the likes of Journey, The Unfinished Swan and even Ico or The Last Guardian. The expectations and the points of comparison are there, and Rime often manages to meet those, even if it’s not quite as refined an experience.
Progressing through the world, you’ll have to solve largely environmental puzzles, either simply through traversing the world, moving blocks around, manipulating perspective or finding things to shout at. There’s a lot of shouting, with Enu’s – the boy’s name – cries making fires burn stronger or triggering little blue statues and causing orbs of light to arc through the sky to do various things in the world. They’re largely quite straightforward, especially with the fox helping to lead the way and the odd button prompt, but there’s one or two little head scratchers in there that can hold you up for a moment.
Not a word is spoken, but you’re led on by glimpses of an adult in a red cape off in the distance and by the ceaseless yapping of a magical orange fennec fox that bounds ahead of you and can turn into confetti that blows away on the wind. She is rather adorable in a way, and there’s an obvious bond between her and the boy, but her yapping doesn’t half get annoying if you’re exploring elsewhere nearby, or if you are searching for where she is but can’t spot an orange and white pelt.
There’s no combat in this game, and the boy doesn’t run around with a sword or shield on his back – any expectations of a Zelda-like adventure should be quashed. Instead, it’s all about exploring the island and the environments that follow and solving the puzzles within.
Even with this sense of exploration, there’s also the feeling of always being quite deliberately led, first by the fennec fox and then by a later companion that was a simple joy to meet and journey with. Again, there is that growing emotional connection to these guides, but they’re not true companions. Instead, they’re always in front of you, heading off and then patiently waiting for you at the next part of a puzzle you’re meant to visit.
The world design does sprawl in all directions, feeling free and open, even if you are in fact being led down a fairly linear path. There are things to discover off the beaten path, with a number of different collectables that could warrant multiple playthroughs for completionists.
What’s pleasing is how each area reinvents the game’s feeling and atmosphere. Sometimes there’s the pressure of death pushing you onward, other areas are dark and foreboding while other sections had me feeling completely lost, as though my progress through the world was completely incidental. When trailers have largely focussed on the achingly blue skies and the pristine white stone amidst the sun bleached foliage of the island, it defies your expectations for this to only be the first hour or so of the game, before becoming dramatically different in tone. As each area comes to an end, you run down a huge corridor and into the light, eager to see what’s next.
Through it all, a story does build and grow, again without a single spoken word within the game. Some of this is environmental, with large murals adorning certain walls, potentially lighting up and glowing as you come near, but each area is concluded with a small interactive cutscene that evolves through to the game. It’s a touching tale, if one that I felt is a little subdued right up until those final climactic moments and the final reveals.
Similarly subdued feeling was the music. It’s a wonderful and varied soundtrack, a sweeping orchestral score that’s uplifting when it needs to be and provides ambience to your exploration, but for those key moments in the story, it doesn’t take enough of the opportunities to swell in volume and intensity, instead tending to have a gentler poignancy.
A few other small issues nagged away at me as I played. There’s noticeable stuttering when the game loads new sections on both PS4 and PS4 Pro. The latter does get to push beyond 30fps and offers improved image quality, but doesn’t reach a steady 60fps or push on to full 4K.
There’s also a slight awkwardness to getting around the world. The boy’s gangly looking run is charming and traversal is generally very well done, but there’s the odd moment where the animations feel a little stilted and where your route through the world is overly prescribed to you. The way the camera shifts when diving underwater is also rather jarring. They’re small things to complain about in an otherwise fantastic game.
Tequila Works’ efforts these past few years have delivered a game that’s full of beguiling charm and beauty, one that can stand up to many of the comparisons with some of the most fondly remembered games of the last decade. It doesn’t always meet those high standards, but Rime has been well worth the wait.
Version tested: PlayStation 4 Pro