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Rime review

Despite having plenty going on thematically, Rime is a slightly dull puzzle platformer.

Our Verdict

Rime is a middling puzzle platformer with some genuine narrative depth, but the latter doesn't quite justify the former.

Need To Know

What is it? Puzzle platformer set on a mysterious island.
Reviewed on Intel I5 4460@3.20GHz, 8GB RAM, Nvidia GeForce GTX 780
Price $30/£30
Release date 26 May
Publisher Grey Box
Developer Tequila Works
Multiplayer None
Link www.greybox.com/rime
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In Rime, a boy washes up on a remote island and wanders around. You're guided through this new land by a fox—think a dog, but less good—who yaps while signposting where to go next. You climb things, push stuff around, line up shapes and even control light to activate switches that open the way. It's rather Indie Game: The Game from there—twee imagery, gentle exploration, nice music, until some more thematically interesting stuff emerges later in the story.

I typically enjoy all of those things and thought I'd like Rime too, but I've bounced off of it a bit. As a puzzle platformer, it's a bit too easy going, rarely offering anything too taxing to figure out. I was never dazzled by the answer to a puzzle, though two or three are complex or large scale enough that you'll feel satisfied by resolving them. 

You can only jump onto certain surfaces marked by what looks like seagull poo, which is good for signposting around the island's four main areas, but it means that jumping and climbing as the boy is pretty basic. These interactions aren't especially fun to do, either. Maybe the idea is you're meant to have a sense of the boy's limitations, but platforming should still feel nice in a platformer. 

Visually, Rime recalls the PlayStation games of Team Ico, as well as Wind Waker and Journey, although it's more directly inspired by the look of the Mediterranean coastline. This sounds harsh, but I think it's a clear league down from those games. The characters and environments almost look too simple, and while I like the overall colour palette, the world alone isn't spectacular enough to justify the journey. 

Like some of the games it resembles, Rime wants to show rather than tell when it comes to storytelling. You don't know why the boy is on the island, and the game is coy about what's going on throughout most of his journey. I think there's a limit to how little you can show and still have the player interested in the premise, though. Without wanting to spoil anything, there is significance to the boy's adventure and the imagery you encounter on the island, but while being thematically clever, this stuff emerges far too deep into the game to maximise its impact.

Some hints of the game's themes can be found via in-game collectables, but they're pretty abstract and I'd be surprised if players found too many of them on anything but a comprehensive playthrough. And I definitely wouldn't play Rime again just to find some collectables. 

Of the game's four main areas, a couple feel like they stick around for too long. In the second section on a dusty part of the island, a giant predatory bird hovers overhead, meaning the boy has to scramble behind bits of shelter to avoid being carried away by it. You sense how close the bird is getting by reading audio and visual clues, and evading its gaze is genuinely tense. By the time that section crawls to a close, though, you feel like you've been wary of that thing for a couple of hours, and you're ready for it to stop. 

Rime took me about eight hours to finish, and it's oddly paced. The first and second sections feel very long, and the third—featuring an AI companion of sorts—is just long enough. The fourth, more focused on reasonably challenging climbing puzzles, is extremely brief, but it's also one of the best bits of the game. For too long, Rime feels like it's coasting between very basic switch hitting and collecting, which made me zone out a bit as I plodded through its environments. Much better are the puzzles where you control light to activate platforms or create silhouettes, sometimes even shifting the time of day on the fly to progress.

The lack of narrative drive is why Rime didn't click with me in the way I hoped it would. I didn't know enough about the boy or his journey to really care about why he was following this yappy fox around, even when I did find a particular puzzle engaging. When the soundtrack swells dramatically in a way that suggests the game is trying to provoke feels—which is fairly frequently—it just hasn't earned those emotional moments. I'm sad to say I was unmoved by most of Rime's attempts to engage me on a deeper narrative level. I'm not made of stone, or anything, and plenty of narrative-centric games get under my skin. I just think Rime waits too long to make you invest in what's going on. 

A note on performance: Rime had a few busier moments that caused a surprising amount of slowdown on my not-amazing home specs (but above recommended) cited above when I had it on higher settings. Try dropping to medium if you're thinking of picking it up.

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The Verdict

Rime

Rime is a middling puzzle platformer with some genuine narrative depth, but the latter doesn't quite justify the former.