Tuesday, May 30, 2017

RiME Review (XONE)

RiME is a 3D adventure / puzzle platformer that wears its influences on its sleeve - ICO, Journey, The Legend of Zelda, ABZU, INSIDE, and more - while still offering more than enough new ideas to have its own distinct identity. It combines the best bits of some of the best games of the past five years into a beautiful and memorable experience that should not be missed. Continue reading for all of the details in our full Xbox One RiME review.

Game Details

  • Publisher: Grey Box, Six Foot
  • Developer: Tequila Works
  • ESRB Rating: “E10” for Everyone 10+
  • Genre: Adventure / Puzzle
  • Pros: Gorgeous visuals; great music; solid gameplay; intuitive puzzle and world design; the fox!
  • Cons: Performance issues
  • MSRP: $30 ($40 on Switch)
There isn’t really an obvious story when you start playing RiME as all you know is that you’re playing as a kid shipwrecked on an island. You see glimpses of a person in a red cloak, but every time you get close they duck just out of sight. Tracking down that person is your goal and, maybe when you do, the mysteries of the island will be fully revealed.

I love games like this. It doesn’t overwhelm you with exposition and cutscenes and characters and the journey is more important than the story. It just plops you into a world and says “explore for the sake of exploring”. There isn’t any combat, though there are threats you have to overcome, and the gameplay is almost entirely focused on pure exploration and light puzzle solving. Some people don’t like these walking simulator-style experiences, but I’ve really come to love them.

RiME is a pseudo open 3D world that you are free to explore, though the side paths that lead to optional collectibles aren’t ever nearly as interesting as the main quest. The game doesn’t ever tell you what to do or where to go but is designed in an incredibly intuitive way where you just sort of instinctively know where to go. Granted, a helpful fox spirit does appear now and then to point you in the direction of the main path, but for the most part you have to figure things out for yourself. Similar to games like ABZU or Lifeless Planet, RiME is very smart about giving you subtle clues about where to go next. The world just plain makes sense.

The puzzle designs are similarly intuitive and smartly designed. Moving light sources around to cast shadows where you want, block puzzles, using your character’s voice near certain objects, or activating switches in the right order are the name of the game here. Nothing too taxing, but it is satisfying. Some might say the puzzles are too easy, but I think it speaks a lot to the strength of their design that they are so intuitive. It is a great feeling to walk into a room and look around and say, “Oh, I bet doing X activates Y” and have it actually work. Just like in the world design, the game does a good job of giving subtle hints about how new puzzle mechanics work before you see the next puzzle. It’s all just so damn clever. And unlike a game like The Witness that is pretentious and obnoxious about how smart it thinks it is, RiME doesn’t rub your nose in it. It just IS smart and cool like the videogame version of The Most Interesting Man In The World.

Perhaps the biggest compliment I can give to RiME is that it’s a game I want to show off to people – gamers and non-gamers alike. It is an absolutely beautiful looking game with a fantastic soundtrack and a great main character that you make a real emotional connection with despite there not being any dialogue and only the thinnest of story threads pulling you forward. RiME is a work of art.

RiME is flat out one of the most beautiful games on the market. The cel-shaded visuals are clean and great looking and the use of colors really pops in all the right places. I also really love the subtle camera pans that nudge you in the right direction and ensure you’re looking where you should be looking, but also the not so subtle cinematic camera angles that the game shifts to when it suits the action. I keep saying it but RiME is just incredibly well designed and polished, which I guess it should be after so many years in development. The game does have some framerate issues and runs at sub-30 FPS fairly often. It didn't bother me as nothing in the gameplay is really speed / precision-based, but if you are sensitive to performance issues it may be worth holding off until a potential patch.

The sound is also very well done with a spectacular orchestral soundtrack that is always cued up with the perfect theme for almost every situation. While the music itself is great, I do have to complain a bit about the use of the “You’re going the right way” music cue. It will suddenly start playing while you’re still feeling your way around and exploring and takes some of the thrill out of exploration. There were only a couple of places where it was really egregious, though, so it isn’t a huge problem. The sound effects in the game are fantastically well done with the yips and barks of the fox and the voice of the child being the highlights. You can press the “Y” button at any time to make your character hum and sing or yell to solve puzzles, or even give an annoyed “hmph” when nothing interesting is around.

All in all, RiME is a fantastic work of art that I can’t recommend highly enough. The presentation is absolutely beautiful and cinematic and makes it something you’ll want to show off to as many people as possible. Most importantly, it is also incredibly fun and satisfying to play with solid gameplay and intuitive world and puzzle design. While I fell in love with it pretty much immediately, some people won’t like it since it isn’t full of constant thrills and excitement. If you do enjoy walking simulators and exploration driven experiences, however, RiME is right up there among the best. Buy it.
Disclosure: A review code was provided by the publisher.