- Released: 2017
- Played on: Nintendo Switch
- Also available on: PC, Xbox One, PS4
- Time to get into: 2 Hours
- Time to complete: 8 Hours
- Multiplayer: No
When this was originally released in mid-year 2017, I thought it looked great and it was receiving some praise in reviews. However, I forced myself to wait for it to come out on Switch, due to my ‘policy’ of not playing a game that I can play on Nintendo‘s multi-purpose console, on a console that is chained to a TV. As it turned out this was an error on my part for two reasons: firstly, it took absolutely ages for the Switch port to arrive (it was finally released in mid-November) and secondly, when it did, it brought with it a few technical problems that almost ruin the game. It’s the first time that fixating on the Switch version of a game has backfired on me and it ran well enough for me to still be able to experience the two things Rime offers: puzzles and story.
Although you are running around an island exploring, the reality is that Rime is a puzzle game. If you’re the kind of person to go after collectables then there might be some value in checking every dark corner but the main thread of the game is; solve puzzle – move to next puzzle – repeat. There is no real threat in the game – those that do exist, like falling too far or getting snatched up by a massive bird (don’t ask), don’t do you any harm and you immediately get put back where you were just stood to carry on. Essentially all the other aspects of the gameplay are just window dressing on top of the puzzles.
Those puzzles are decent enough though. Most of the puzzle mechanics here have been seen before in video games but overall Rime uses and combines them well. You are asked to do things like move blocks to certain places, block light from falling on things, collect keys to open doors etc. One thing I did like though is the use of shouting – one of the buttons causes your character to shout out which can be used to activate things – usually lights. In truth it’s not really any different than any other button press but it impresses in two ways. Firstly simply as something a little different. It’s enjoyable when a few shouts are needed in fairly short order to just run about shouting at everything – let’s be honest, we all want to do this in real life from time to time! Secondly the fact that a shout can carry a short distance, rather than another form of activating something like pressing a button or standing in a certain place, means that you can use it to activate things you can’t reach, or activate more than one thing at a time. Without giving anything away, Rime finds a few clever uses of this and figuring out these puzzles are some of the most rewarding in the game. Overall, the puzzling is good – difficult enough to be interesting without ever becoming frustrating.
There is no dialogue in Rime and the story is revealed to you very very slowly indeed through semi-interactive cut scenes. As always on this blog, I will steer very, very clear of spoilers but there are two things worth noting. Firstly, this is not a deep and multi-layered story. It is more about mood – as it the whole game, not just the cut scenes. Rather than weave a narrative, Rime focuses on feel – it’s is an emotional journey taking in aspects of beauty, horror, fear, loss and determination. Secondly however, Rime doesn’t seem to be able to quite decide which of these aspects – story or puzzle – it wants to be most. In many ways it reminds me of Old Man’s Journey – that game has the same type of slow-burning, heartfelt story as Rime but where that game is happy for the gameplay to take backseat to the story, Rime is less willing to commit. Perhaps fearing that their story wasn’t as strong, perhaps trying to be more, to satisfy a full console release compared to mobile, one way or another the developer Tequila Works hasn’t fully committed to either and both parts suffer as a result. Neither the story or the puzzling are strong enough to stand up alone, it’s them in combination that holds Rime together.
Which would be fine, if the game ran solidly. Unfortunately it does not. In general it astounds me that the Switch is clearly capable of running a game as beautiful as Breath of the Wild and yet here we have Rime – which just looks bad by comparison. It feels like your eyes are tired and you can’t see properly. I was regularly blinking, only to discover that it didn’t help – Rime just looks fuzzy. On top of that, those lousy graphics aren’t even solid. You can tell when the game is loading something in the background because the frame rate slows to a crawl for a good few seconds. I guess this is the result of it being ported to the Switch, rather than built for it, but it is close to being ruinous to any enjoyment of the game.
Rime is fairly close to being a great game. The puzzles are never dull and often fun and satisfying. The mood and the story are powerful and well realised across the game as a whole. But I just can’t recommend you play it on Switch. Unless you only play it in docked mode – in which case, what’s great about the Switch version is lost anyway. Basically play it – but on another device!