When I walked into my hands-on session for Rime, producer Cody Bradley from publisher Grey Box asked me if I knew about the game. I said what I imagine a bunch of people had previously said and reduced Rime to a ‘multiplatform Breath of the Wild’, which Bradley patiently explained wasn’t the case.
Outside of a third-person view, a stylised presentation and a youngish male protagonist, Rime doesn’t have a whole lot in common with Nintendo’s recent hit, Breath of the Wild. According to Bradley, developer Tequila Works wants to tell a somewhat grounded story of what it would be like for a boy making his way through a mysterious and puzzle-filled island after his shipwreck.
While the unnamed boy could likely put most adults to shame when it comes to clambering through certain environmental puzzles, there’s reportedly no combat in Rime. In fact, the opening section of the game that I played was an incredibly relaxed puzzle game that let me take my time with learning the game’s straightforward mechanics.
Initially, the puzzles aren’t overly complex; they’re more single-function riddles that work as training wheels for the more multifaceted ones you know aren’t too far off. Early on, puzzles are solved mostly by climbing, using the boy’s voice to activate certain switches, and little environmental challenges where the solution doesn’t take too long to become clear.
In terms of where you have to go, Tequila Works has opted for fixed-camera moments that point you towards where you should go. When you get there, if you can’t figure out where you should be, a fox companion materialises and barks at you from where you need to be. These were the only two mechanics of my 90-ish minutes with Rime that I didn’t enjoy.
The fixed camera shifts feel heavy-handed, and a subtle shift while still allowing for player free look (which is available the rest of the time) would have been a more welcome inclusion. Apparently, there’s also no option to disable the fox companion’s hints, or extend the time it takes before it starts yapping at you, which occasionally gave me the impression that the game was becoming impatient with how I was solving a particular puzzle, even if I was just exploring an area instead of puzzling.
Outside of these gripes, I was impressed by everything else, from the stylised art design to the subdued but pitch-perfect soundtrack. It’s also great to see that Tequila Works has opted for a minimalist UI, where button prompts are rare, and the screen real estate is clean the vast majority of the time so players can enjoy the stunning views.
There’s more than a bit of the not-so-old PlayStation classic Journey in Rime (side note: if you haven’t played Journey, it’s well worth the short-but-awesome experience), and that’s not at all a bad thing. The mostly absent HUD, stylish visuals, and music are all reminiscent of Journey, as is the way Rime shifts from unthreatened puzzling to having to crack puzzles while a particular threat looms overhead.
For completionists who like to explore off the beaten path, there are collectables—both tangible and, reportedly, narrative titbits—to be found in Rime. I found one of them, but I actually retrospectively regret chasing it down, as it meant that I didn’t get to spend more time with the main-path puzzles and broad strokes of the greater mystery that’s at the heart of Rime.
In terms of these mysteries, there’s a cloaked figure who conveniently disappears whenever you get close, G-man style. Then there’s the pledge that players can discover more about the backstory of the boy. On top of this, the island appears to have its own Brothers Grimm dark fairytale going on, with creepy figures in the shadows, and what once may have been people turned into silently screaming sand sculptures. Creepy, I know.
This change in tone also helps to add to a changing visual aesthetic as you shift between areas, and the music shifts perfectly with it, too. As with any good preview, when the screen faded to black after my allotted time I was left wanting to know and play more. The good news is that Rime is out on the 27th of May, which means there’s not long to wait before I can jump back in.
If you’re a fan of beautifully presented puzzle games, with the kind of music you can chill out to (I asked Bradley to please, please, please release the official soundtrack; fingers crossed), you should put Rime on your gaming radar, too.