Rime is a game that arrives burdened with high expectations. Announced with a visually striking trailer during an indie showcase at Sony’s 2013 Gamescom conference, Rime immediately caused gamers and journalists alike to draw comparisons to The Wind Waker, Journey and even The Last Guardian. This unveiling had the desired effect: a niche game from an independent studio was now on everyone’s radar. The downside of this sort of exposure is, of course, the potential of misconception. That initial trailer, while received warmly, may not necessarily have lined up with the developer’s ultimate vision for the game. As we all know thanks to No Man’s Sky, making a great first impression isn’t always a good thing. After five years in development Rime is finally out, but does it manage to live up to that melancholic adventure we first glimpsed four years ago?
Rime takes a minimalist approach to its storytelling. A boy wakes up alone, marooned on an island. He begins to explore strange ruins, climb cliffs, solve puzzles and make his way toward an enormous tower in the distance. And that’s all you get. It’s a story told without words, instead using its visuals, music and the animation of the boy himself to convey meaning. Similar to games like Journey and The Last Guardian, the rhythm and flow of Rime is almost meditative: there to be absorbed passively, not something you need to pay explicit attention to.
The music is not only transcendent, brimming with emotion and immediacy, it also shifts dynamically depending on where you are on the island, or what puzzle you may have solved. The nature of Rime lulls you into a state of emotional vulnerability, so that when you solve a puzzle and the music soars and a pale dead tree explodes with dark red leaves, the sheer beauty of the moment reaches your very core.
The complexity of the puzzles remains fairly simple throughout, with slight spikes in difficulty here and there. This is deliberate though, Rime isn’t setting out to grind the gears of your brain like The Witness. Instead, there’s an almost constant sense of satisfaction as you proceed through Rime’s various environments. It’s like turning a heavy key in an ornate, old lock: it’s a simple action, yet extremely gratifying all the same.
Rime’s visuals are absolutely stunning. At 4k on PS4 Pro, the image quality is ludicrously clean with nary a jagged edge in sight. The bright colours of the grass and trees, the ocean, animals, even the boy himself, all pop with startling clarity. Portions of the game make use of a day/night cycle, which results in some gorgeous dawns, sunsets and starry skies.
With all these amazing visuals it’s unfortunate that there are some issues with performance. To the naked eye the frame rate seems to dip significantly below 30fps at times, and in less demanding areas it appeared to actually go above 30fps. The bottom line is it’s far from stable and while it didn’t ruin the experience for me, it was definitely noticeable. The problem goes a little deeper, unfortunately. Developer Tequila Works have confirmed that Rime will run at 30fps at 4k on PS4 Pro and 60fps at 1080p, but there is currently no way to change between these two settings in-game. With no news of a day-one patch, this means that if you have a PS4 Pro you’ll have to either play at an unstable 30fps or change the console’s video output back to 1080p. Not the end of the world obviously, but quite a big frustration for those who have forked out the extra money for a Pro and/or 4k TV.
Getting swept up in the melancholia of this journey is emotional, cathartic and fun. Rime doesn’t rely on mind-bending puzzles or intense combat to keep you interested, nor does it boast hyper-realistic graphics or characters with hundreds of fully-voice lines. Its simplicity is its greatest strength, allowing it to convey an emotional nuance uncommon in video games. Rime made me feel things that I’m still struggling to define, and I loved every minute of it.
Rime was reviewed on PS4 Pro with a code provided by distributor Five Star Games.