Platform Played On: Switch
Developer: Tequila Works
Publisher: Grey Box, Six Foot
Genre: Puzzle Adventure
Release Date: November 14, 2017
Wannabe Writer’s Note: This is the re-posting of the RiME Review I wrote on my old website. This article was originally posted on April 7, 2018. Enjoy past me’s unedited ramblings!
Games that care about things… I love games that care about things! With promises of an epic emotional experience that deals with the difficult topic of grief, I was expecting something special. I also read numerous criticisms about technical faults and “terrible” level designs. Well, I go into every game with an open mind to avoid disappointment and with the hope of being pleasantly surprised. I had already made my mind up that I was getting the game so I ignored the internet crying about technical imperfections. The best way for me to know if I’ll like something is if I actually play it myself. RiME seemed more than worth taking a chance on so I did. I had to, especially with that cute fox I kept seeing in the screenshots people were sharing!
How Far I Got
In two long play sessions while visiting my family, I completed the main journey and wow. I seriously wanted to cry a couple of times, but I really didn’t want to have that fun “Why are you crying over a video game?” conversation with anyone (again) so I bottled up my tears like a heartless champion (Disclaimer: Never bottle up painful feelings… they don’t like that, trust me). I also played the whole game in handheld mode which is rare for me. I did see a few technical imperfections but largely didn’t care about them. Although I did have to brave the awful satellite internet where I was staying and wait 2 hours for a small patch to download… But yeah, a special experience is much more important to me than flawless technical stuff. There were a few side activities I missed, but I’m quite satisfied with just experiencing the main story.
With little rhyme or reason (sorry), you find yourself in control of a little boy washed up on the beach of a strange island. The intro cinematic shows a violent thunder and lightning storm out on the ocean (⚡AWESOME⚡) so it’s safe to assume something pretty terrible happened to this young lad. With zero direction, and no UI other than a button prompt every now and then, you start to explore the island and slowly learn what the heck happened (sort of). That’s all I’ll say about the story outside of my spoiler section. Most of the fun in this journey is figuring that stuff out as you play!
The controls are very simple with only a few actions to remember (yell, jump/climb, interact with stuff, move, swim, and camera angle). There is zero combat and the local creatures are mostly friendly. You keep pushing ahead on the island by solving puzzles to unlock the way forward. These usually involve moving blocks, finding places to climb, light and illusion related mechanics, and yelling at things. I found all the puzzles fun to solve, and while a couple made me use my brain harder than usual, nothing stumped me into frustration. Just the way I like it! There is also no penalty for death and checkpoints are everywhere. This encouraged me to take chances while enjoying the detailed area designs. There are also achievements and collectibles to hunt, adding a lot more time to this relatively short emotional experience.
The environments on the island are simply breathtaking! I loved the polished look of the animation style, but there were a few of those technical issues that bugged me a tad. Before I downloaded the patch, the draw distance was awful making things in the distance super blurry. The patch fixed that so I recommend downloading it! Also, there were several times when the frame rate dropped making everything all jittery for a few seconds. It didn’t really hurt my overall experience, just annoyed me while it happened. Oh, and the music that plays as you explore is very moving, adding a lot of special feelz to the adventure.
My Overall Biased Opinion
This is the perfect example of a game I love despite minor technical flaws. This game clearly has a carefully crafted heart and soul (read: NOT a cheap Zelda clone), and I really connected with it for that reason. The entire journey takes painful raw emotions and turns them into something magical. RiME has basically painted grief into a tragic masterpiece, and that’s not something easily accomplished in a video game. Unfortunately, grief and loss are devastating things that we will all have to face at some point in our short lives. Having a video game show us an interpretation of those painful feelings is both inspiring and comforting.
Overall, I’d recommend anyone with feelings should consider checking out this gem! This is a good Switch game but if you want to see RiME at its best, I suggest playing it on another platform for technical reasons.
SPOILERS AHEAD!!! You have been warned.
This section of my video game reviews is a way for me to remember my journey through a game. Major spoilers will be present here so please avoid this unless you’ve already played the game, or don’t have any plans to. Feel free to share any experiences you’ve had with this game in the comments area thingy below.
I didn’t get this until I beat the game and discovered the Stage Select option, but the levels are named after the stages of grief! Very clever. I’m sure there’s lots of deep design connections to the emotional state each stage is representing and the overall story, but most of that went over my head.
Stage 1: Denial – After I woke up on the beach and wandered around for a bit, I discovered a cool statue thing that looked like a fox, with four little statues in front of it. There was this light beaming in the distance so I followed it, and then figured I had to find four more little statues on the island and yell at them. Once I went back, I yelled again and the cute fox appeared! D’aww. The fox played a big role in the game and he often led me to the right path. Eventually, I got to the tower, sung my way through a darkened invisible path room, and saw the first cinematic piece to the puzzle of what the hell happened – A vacant but sunny scene with a shipwreck. The kid’s red cape thing flies away as a storm approaches… then off to the next stage.
Stage 2: Anger – This stage actually has a pretty mean monster to avoid; a very angry bird of prey flying overhead. If you stay out in the open too long, it will swoop down and game over (so restart at the previous checkpoint with no penalty). You’re constantly rushing for cover, and the bird is always breathing down your neck. The goal of the stage is to trigger storms at 3 different windmills. Each time a storm happens, lightning strikes the bird, scaring it away from each area before toasting it completely (YASS!! The power of lightning is awesome). When you get back to the bridge that leads back to the tower, the scorched bird shows up to chase you to the end (scary!!), but falls to its doom when the bridge collapses. The next scene is the boy back on the ship, but in a storm this time. A human figure in a red hooded jacket is onboard, but the next stage starts before the boy can reach him.
Stage 3: Bargaining – After swimming through a lengthy underwater cavern (Yay for air bubbles. It’s also cool how the air meter is represented by the screen growing darker), you pop up in a ruined area where you awaken a Sentinel (towering robotic eyeball thing with legs). The Sentinel knocked me a path forward, beamed me some images of making another Sentinel, and then shut down completely. Long story short, I created the new Sentinel in a series of neat puzzles (while avoiding shadow monsters). It was quite adorable how the boy taught the machine thing how to walk properly, and they seemed to form a special connection. With the help of the new Sentinel, I awaken a group of more Sentinels. We all march off as the next scene happens. Back on the boat in the storm, the boy reaches the hooded man but he falls over the side. The boy tries to save him, but isn’t strong enough. He cries when he is left holding just a piece of the man’s jacket (which looked oddly like his red cape… hm). Next stage time!
Stage 4: Depression – Starting off in a rather hopeful way, the boy is riding on his Sentinel buddy and the group arrives at some ruins during a rainstorm. As we make our way through it, I notice big golden doors blocking the way. The only way they open is when a Sentinel sacrifices itself, like a key in a lock. At the last door, the Sentinel I created has to make the sacrifice. The boy desperately tries to stop him but can’t. He collapses to his knees, and the fox comforts him. Yep. Ellen almost cried, but didn’t. Ugh. The next part was harder. After finding four statues to activate a big statue of the boy crying, the fox dies and disintegrates in the boys arms. The kid erupts in an emotional outburst and turns into a statue. Moving breaks him out of the statue as he screams in pain, and now he’s just a shadow. The shadow of the boy has to break the chains around a lighthouse-like structure to shine light on things. When the last chain is broken, the boy is kind of ghostly and runs down an upside down version of the tower. Then it’s time for the big reveal scene. Back on the boat, the man wasn’t the one who fell overboard to his death, the kid was…
Stage 5: Acceptance – The final stage opens with the ghostly boy waking up on his bed. The child’s room is greyed out and the kid’s cape is the only thing in colour. He makes his way down the hallway and finds his statue dad (presumably) sitting in a chair in a defeated position. The scene fades and we’re back at the upside down tower. A bunch of those shadow monsters are jumping into a pit (which is actually the night sky since the tower is upside down). The boy leaps to his fate, and I’m suddenly in control of the dad back at their real house. The dad takes a key and reluctantly unlocks the door to his son’s empty room. After interacting with some wind chimes, I make the dad leave but he stops and sits on the bed. The ghost image of the kid appears and they hug before he disappears completely in his father’s arms. The last part is the dad holding the red cape (a piece of the boys jacket that ripped off when he fell to his death), and finally releases it when you move the control stick. Then the red cape blows away in the wind… the emotional freaking end!
It seems like the father dreamed up this whole island scenario, clinging on to a small bit of hope that his son was still alive. All the lock and key imagery on the island makes sense now, too. The father was avoiding the unpleasant task of unlocking the door to his dead son’s room… wow. A very sad story with a beautiful message… sniffs.
Favourite Story Moment
All of it! *runs off crying*
There wasn’t a whole lot of abilities and stuff. I’d have to say climbing was probably my favourite ability. It was very easy to control and some of the heights I reached left me on edge, in a good way.
Favourite “Oh S@#%” Moment
When the scorched anger-bird monster showed up after being toasted by lightning. I was not expecting that mad dash to the tower!
I really liked the area where you create the Sentinel in the Bargaining stage. The puzzles were intriguing and it had Metroid-y ancient feel to it.
Not exactly sure what it represented, but I loved the kid’s fox buddy. So cute and helpful!
Most Tedious Gameplay Moment
The very start when I was wandering around trying to figure out what the heck to do. Yelling at everything is the way to go!
Greatest Use of Yell
Smashing pots, Link-ish style!
Outfits found: 1/6
Toys found: 1/7
Emblem pieces found: 5/18
Lullabies found: 1/6
Keyholes found: 2/6
⚡Thanks for reading!⚡