Rime Review: Rosy dawn and wine-dark sea

Credit: Tequila Works, Grey Box Games
Credit: Tequila Works, Grey Box Games /

After a rocky development, Rime has washed ashore with a strange, emotional adventure that does not tell the tale you expect it to.

Developer: Tequila Works
Publisher: Grey Box
Platforms: PC (Version reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
Release Date: May 26, 2017

While others were entranced by Rime during its various development announcements and trailers, I managed to remain indifferent toward what looked like a Journey or The Witness clone. Great, yes, run about on an island and solve some puzzles. Sparse UI, cel-shaded graphics, fabulous. But I was surprised to find that what lies at the heart of Rime quickly twists and turn down an unexpected road different from that of its visual inspirations, offering a journey that manages to be both whimsical and haunting; joyful and bleak; anthem and lamentation.

A young boy named Enu washes up on a strange island dotted with ancient ruins and blossoming in natural beauty. The game offers no clues at first as to his past or purpose on the island. With some experimentation among the ruins and devices around the island, he finds a friend–a curious little fox who guides him through the island’s various puzzles, leading up to an enormous tower at the center. From a distance, a mysterious figure in a red cloak is constantly watching.

Credit: Tequila Works, Grey Box Games /

Rime is entirely wordless, conveying its instructions through environmental cues, highlighted objects, murals, and sound. Enu makes progress by solving a handful of different puzzle types: sound-based puzzles that require him to shout in proximity of a statue to activate something, switch puzzles that involve pushing blocks, visual puzzles that require moving the camera to line certain shapes up correctly, and climbing challenges that involve spotting ledges as you move along–a few other puzzle types appear later on, as well.

Few, if any of these puzzles will mire you down for long, as most merely ask the player to look at the situation in a slightly different way each time. You’ll hone your observation as you play, and Rime trains its audience early on as to the basics of what they should search for in a given situation, then leaves us to make the leap ourselves. Those looking for Witness or Myst-level challenges should go elsewhere, though I found the relative ease with which puzzles were understood to be a boon to the pacing of the game.

Credit: Tequila Works, Grey Box Games /

Rime keeps very loose hands on the reigns as you proceed; while there is a single, linear path to follow through the game, Enu can meander his way along it and by the wayside as the player chooses. It’s worth it to wander, as there are a number of hidden collectibles scattered throughout the game as rewards for those who can solve extra puzzles or simply spot a slightly hidden, overgrown ledge that’s off the progression path somewhere. Don’t worry if you miss any, completionists. Though you have to play the game straight through the first time (it’s for the best, trust me), once you finish, you can go back to any level at any time and revisit what you missed.

Moreover, Rime gives you ample reason to desire these collectibles beyond fulfilling numbers on a screen. I don’t want to spoil a drop of this game’s narrative by even appending adjectives to describe it because Rime will certainly touch your heart in a myriad of ways. Suffice to say it does this game a disservice to merely call its story good, but you only get the bones of it by keeping your eyes focused on your fox guide the whole time. Poking around each area thoroughly rewards explorers with an even more fulfilling experience than the base storyline, and lengthens the game from a brief six hours to somewhere closer to eight, or even ten.

Credit: Tequila Works, Grey Box Games /

Rime may be a good game on its own, but David Garcia’s soundtrack lifts it to new heights

I can endlessly praise the atmosphere, puzzles, and story of Rime, but the gameplay itself stumbles at times…quite literally. Though Enu’s clumsy, boyish gait is all a part of the feel of the game, there were several moments where I could not attribute his asinine physical feats to mere movement quirks. Enu leaped off ledges or smashed into walls Assassin’s Creed-chase-scene-style a bit more often than I would consider dismissable, and the tilt of the camera performed a few bizarre backflips trying to keep up with certain scene changes. None of these resulted in drastic setbacks; even death just plops you right back where you fell down, but they nonetheless broke immersion a few times as I struggled to get the kid to do what I wanted him to do.

Furthermore, I experienced some stuttering as I tried to review the game, something that is apparently a common problem on PC. Certain graphics cards that supposedly meet the game’s requirements are not running the game well, among other issues. Some tinkering with graphics settings improved my experience enough to play the game without dramatic problems, and the developers seem committed to addressing the issue. Hopefully, Tequila Works and Grey Box can get this addressed quickly. Though I didn’t play the console version, my understanding is that this should be a non-issue on consoles.

But though I struggled at times to enjoy the sights, the sounds kept me enraptured. Rime’s soundtrack changes dynamically with the action in-game, wrapping you with sweeping strings as you unlock new doors or step out of a ruin into a sunlight-bathed courtyard. Rime may be a good game on its own, but David Garcia’s soundtrack lifts it to new heights by setting the mood perfectly for each new scene–even more so as you come to understand the greater, overarching story of Rime and the meaning of the feelings conveyed moment to moment.

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I loved Rime and found that the journey it took me on quickly washed away any feelings of frustration gleaned from awkward performance issues. And I have confidence in the developers to get the PC version running smoothly, and soon. That said, the high price point for such a short run time combined with such concerns may give you enough pause to stay away until the issues are fixed, or wait for a sale on PC or console. But if you’re in the camp to wait, definitely take the leap when the price comes down. Rime expertly weaves a truly meaningful tale in with enjoyable gameplay while giving that play significant narrative impact–a feat I hope more and more games over time come to master.

9. Frustrations from PC struggles and awkward movement controls were quickly swallowed up in the glorious, but brief adventure that is Rime. Through beautiful environments, clever puzzling, and a soundtrack contending for game music of the year, Rime draws its audience into a truly moving tale that will keep them absorbed in its splendid island world from start to finish.. Tequila Works. . Rime

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.