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RiME is a beautiful, minimalist painting come to life. Spoken words are thrown out the window in favour of whistles and hums, and the story remains ambiguous up until its final chapter. While we’ve seen the vague approach to storytelling wrapped up in a pretty presentation a myriad of times in recent years, Tequila Works has crafted something noteworthy in its own right with this relaxing jaunt around a mystical island. Peril is rare and punishment is lenient. You’re meant to enjoy this idyllic setting that’s been plucked from the most perfect postcard, so it sort of makes sense. You search all the nooks and crannies of this enchanting place at the same time as the young child who’s somehow ended up here, and both of you gawk at its wonder, while sauntering through its pitfalls.
Our fresh-faced protagonist has washed-up on an isolated oasis, and using their voice can make green ghosts shoot out of statues that look similar to the garden ornaments you find outside your nan’s house. As if by magic, these friendly phantoms then create doorways in walls where there wasn’t before. You push blocks around to open doors. You use time-bending methods by pushing large balls around to open doors. You manipulate beams of light to open doors.
Once you figure out RiME’s puzzle patterns, which is done in the very early stages, opening doors becomes pretty simple, really. You’re seldom told where exactly to go and what exactly to do, but hints are placed in the landscape and the environment around you — Tequila Works has achieved that goal of pushing the player in the right direction without treating them like idiots, for the most part. Because if you do find yourself a little lost on this sprawling isle, a friendly fox companion is there to hollar at you and guide you in the right direction. But RiME could’ve used more of the tension seen in the second chapter where a large bird is stalking you from the skies as you scurry across the desert floor. It adds some urgency to your actions, as well as a challenge that’s lacking in other areas where you’re doing the same push-pull dance with a load of stone blocks. Once you figure out the magician’s trick, the illusion loses its lustre. But if that magician is a looker, well, allowances can be made, I guess.
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RiME’s beauty is obvious from the opening moments; you wake up on the beach and stroll along the strand towards an elaborate sculpture in the middle of a stream, while little critters frolic at your feet. It’s just pretty and nice and lovely and nice and sweet and nice. And that thread continues as you delve deeper into this mysterious land, revealing underwater tunnels crowded with schools of fish, in the middle of a leafy, gorgeous haven. But it’s the little touches that make you more appreciative: the way the child will try and steady themselves as they’re running down a hill, or lift their knees up to wade through water. The little ripples on the ground as a torrential drizzle soaks every inch, or ruins casting ominous shadows as the sun blazes. The stunning, cartoon-inspired surface, is only elevated by the attention to detail on show.
As picturesque as the scenery is, it would be much less so if it wasn’t for composer David Garcia Diaz’s accompaniment. His arrangements are the perfect backing in the more sedate moments as delicate piano sits on top of plucking strings. It can equally become awe-inspiring when viewing one of the many jaw-dropping vistas whilst a powerful choir booms over the roll of a floor tom. The orchestra sings with the same sense of wonder the young child has, toing and froing from minor to major as you uncover everything this mythical land has to offer. It’s majestic.
Other games punch harder on their meaningful message, or have a certain something that makes them special. In RiME, autopilot kicks in with the majority of puzzles as the solutions don’t vary much across the course of the journey; it’s easy to find yourself coming to the resolution of something before you’ve even properly began. But there’s an overall polish here that’s lacking in other, similar outings. Its movie-level score and elegant artistry relax you into a trance-like state — it’s the quintessential lazy Sunday afternoon game.
Developer: Tequila Works
Publisher: Grey Box / Six Foot
Available on: PlayStation 4 [reviewed on], PC, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Release date: May 26, 2017, [Q3 2017 Nintendo Switch]