Ah the humble puzzle game genre, comfy at the best of times and infuriating at the worst. Luckily RiME tends to stay away from the latter, but much like a BDSM enthusiast in Sunday school, being surrounded by such wholesomeness made me long for a little punishment.
RiME starts with a young nameless child washing up on the shore of a mysterious island filled with strange structures and puzzles, which is all the exposition I need thank you very much. It could seem like lazy writing, but I appreciate the simplicity. From there… you solve puzzles. The game seems to know what it’s about so far.
At the start, the game pulls you in with a very natural curiosity. The main objective isn’t even properly defined, but there’s a big tower in the distance, so you should probably head that way. Along the way you can see a bunch of beacons stretching high into the sky, so they’re probably worth checking out at some point. Such a feeling of organic gameplay extends to to the world as well, with hidden collectibles only a bit of a wander away. The world is truly well crafted and has a palpable atmosphere that is as colourful as it is mysterious.
The puzzles are fairly standard for puzzle games, a bit too much so for my interest though. You push blocks into place, climb ledges, find keys, and activate things that need to be activated by yelling at them. So you run around this island, yelling at things until they let you through, and I ended up waiting for a difficulty spike that never came. The more challenging puzzles were usually the ones where new mechanics were introduced, and were only challenging because of how aloof the game is about explaining mechanics (see: it doesn’t). There was nothing in the vein of puzzle juggernauts like Portal that really forced you to stretch your puzzle solving skills to the limit.
Honestly, I wouldn’t mind so much if this game could decide what it wanted to be. It seems to be stuck between being an exploration platformer and a puzzle game, and as a result does neither particularly well. For a start, it’s almost impossible to fail. Falling off a ledge plops you right back where you were without penalty, like the devs were worried that making players restart a puzzle even once would cause them to rage quit and never step foot into the wide open world of RiME ever again. While the climbing sections are smooth they tend to be fairly uninspired, and the climbing puzzles again lack any real semblance of a challenge, even towards the end of the game.
Maybe I just suck at reading into subtext, or maybe it’s because I largely ignored the collectibles, but the story elements in RiME are practically non-existent. Which is why I was surprised that they tried to pull some sort of big reveal for the ending, and why I wasn’t surprised that it just completely fails. Without going into spoiler territory, the game spends almost no time building up what happens during the ending, and in fact it seems fairly inconsequential to the rest of the game. Yet it expects to hit you with some kind of heavy emotional response, when to be honest I’ve had farts that were more climactic.
RiME does some things well, namely the visuals and world building, but we’re well past the point where games can be carried on graphics alone. It’s not a terrible game, but it certainly isn’t winning any awards for innovation, which is something that indie games have the freedom from expectations to do. At its current price of $35.99 NZD on Steam, I just can’t recommend this game, especially considering you can beat the main game in your weekend and still have time to catch the Sunday Shortland Street Omnibus.
Also published on Medium.