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Rime was one of those games that I wasn't sure how I would receive. I've always had a hit or miss experience with puzzle genre games but Rime is ambitious in its delivery of both its narrative, and its presentation.
Beautiful, dark, moving and refreshing. Rime is an example of what games can deliver.
Now I've given you that summary. Let me tell you a little about my experience of Rime. Just as a warning, there are some references to spoilers in this review. However I will not tell you the end result. I believe that needs to be experienced.
My initial experience of Rime was slightly negative. You wash up on a beach with no direction where to go. There is no UI in this game, instead the environment lends itself to guide you through the game. That until you progress through the first level enough to awaken the Fox.
The Fox is perhaps the most mysterious element of this game. I thought the Fox would be a mechanic in the game to control and use for puzzle solving. However, the fox provides a lot of direction for the young boy you play as. The Fox also provides a lot of comfort for the young boy during the rare occurrence of cut-scenes. Th Fox is perhaps the only comfort in this lonely world.
But the world is not alone. There are around 5 levels to Rime and each is more beautiful and unique than the latter. Almost like a tour of Tequila Works artists ability. The game provides a beautiful world with collectables scattered around and hidden in the world. That's if you care for that sort of quest. Progression motivated me to figure out the underlining story. Each transition revolves around a tower and long powerful corridors to transcend to the next area. These seem to serve as loading areas as the frame rate notably dropped at these transition areas.
Throughout the first few levels you encounter a mysterious dark figure cloaked in red. You can never quite get close to this figure but between every level you enter a surreal, almost heaven world, that slowly pieces together the underlining story.
But lets move on to the gameplay. Puzzles are the main feature of Rimes gameplay to challenge the player. Their design starts off simple and progressively uses the same mechanics, with a few changes along the way to add some complexity. For someone who can get quickly frustrated with puzzle games, Rime puzzles aren't particularly hard. A good use of observing your surroundings and exploration will help you figure out how to progress. The puzzles are pretty though. With a particular theme of light vs shadow, the art and world reflect the change in setting. The mechanics aren't anything new that we haven't seen before. But the trust Rime puts in the player to figure it out is where is shines. There is no glowing trail or arrow dictating your actions. Figuring out a puzzle is truly rewarding and the beautiful orchestra behind Rime lets you know that.
And it's not to say that the world of Rime is a safe place to explore. The second level introduces a giant bird that hunts you when you move into the open. This adds almost a sense of urgency to completing puzzles and navigating the world cleverly. It also introduces these 'shades', creepy faceless mask shadows that have a dementor affect on the young boy when near. It's almost like they leech onto you when you are too near. And those shades get worse throughout the game. And even more terrifying. The story doesn't explain what they are, but in my mind they are lost souls trapped in this world. I won't tell you what happens when you find a statue of a person like you.
Altogether, Rimes story is about loss, and the ability to progress through it. At one point in the game you must nurture a strange looking mechanical eye. Something that would be terrifying in another game, but you need to build this small creature into its full form. It's almost like raising some strange mechanical child to fulfil its purpose. And this narrative continues through the game to deliver a finale that brought me to tears.
As I said before. Beautiful, dark, moving and refreshing. Rime is a must play this year. Thank you Tequila Works for that experience.
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