PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One

De­spite the frosty con­no­ta­tions of its name, Rime is a game that ex­udes warmth. While there are mo­ments of dark­ness and de­spair along the way, and cru­elty and loss to deal with too, Te­quila Works’ long-awaited ad­ven­ture strives to be joy­ful at ev­ery step. It’s there in the way you can play­fully in­ter­act with the spec­tral fox that serves as your guide through­out, or how baby boar con­gre­gate and fol­low you around when­ever you’re car­ry­ing fruit. It’s ev­i­dent in Te­quila Works’ dili­gent ef­forts to min­imise the number of mo­ments where con­trol is taken from you, even dur­ing cutscenes. And, of course, it’s also pro­vided gen­er­ously by the sim­ple plea­sure of ex­plor­ing the game’s beau­ti­ful, mys­te­ri­ous en­vi­ron­ments.

It nearly didn’t turn out this way. Early on dur­ing de­vel­op­ment – a tu­mul­tuous ges­ta­tion that has some­times over­shad­owed the game’s prom­ise – Rime fea­tured hun­dreds of puz­zles, as well as sur­vival as­pects that in­cluded hunger and thirst me­ters. It’s dif­fi­cult to imag­ine how such clut­ter and stress could have fit­ted into a game whose fi­nal form is so fo­cused and pure. There are ves­ti­gial rem­nants of that busier vi­sion – the fruit that would have driven the sur­vival com­po­nent re­mains, for ex­am­ple, but is now noth­ing more than bait to en­cour­age fully grown boar to smash through thorny bar­ri­ers – but Rime is de­fined by its re­laxed and spa­cious na­ture. And even though the game asks noth­ing more of you than a lit­tle ex­plo­rative cu­rios­ity and some ba­sic puz­zle-solv­ing nous, it de­liv­ers a sprawl­ing, am­bi­tious ad­ven­ture in re­turn.

Your quest be­gins af­ter your char­ac­ter, a young boy, washes up on a re­mote beach. Rust-coloured cliffs loom over you and the crabs that skit­ter about on the sand, while a crum­bling tower perches on a pre­car­i­ously eroded land­mass that sits just proud of the is­land. Mov­ing the left stick prompts the boy to rise, un­steadily, to his feet and then be­gin limp­ing in which­ever di­rec­tion you choose to point him. Other than the oc­ca­sional tooltip there’s lit­tle in the way of guid­ance or jus­ti­fi­ca­tion, and you’re left to grad­u­ally un­cover the se­crets of this enig­matic place.

Be­fore long you’ll dis­cover that some ob­jects on the is­land re­act to your pres­ence. A but­ton press makes the boy sing or shout, and do­ing so near any­thing made of jade will make it res­onate. A va­ri­ety of carv­ings serve dif­fer­ent pur­poses: flat-headed stat­ues make tem­po­rary changes to the en­vi­ron­ment – briefly rais­ing a plat­form or open­ing a door, say – while their portly, round­headed cousins al­ter the en­vi­ron­ment per­ma­nently; large globes am­plify the range of your shout; and still more ef­fi­gies and mys­te­ri­ous com­po­nents re­act in play­ful ways that we won’t spoil here.

This me­chanic forms the back­bone of many of the game’s puz­zles. You might have to find a way to light up sev­eral stat­ues at once, for ex­am­ple, or ma­noeu­vre an am­pli­fier so that you’re able to ac­ti­vate a statue be­yond the in­flu­ence of the boy’s small voice. But these meta­mor­phic rock de­vices are com­ple­mented by a number of other magic-in­fused mech­a­nisms. View­ing plat­forms that serve as the fo­cal point for perspective puz­zles have you lin­ing up frag­ments of golden stat­ues to form new door­ways. Light-sen­si­tive switches ac­ti­vate ma­chin­ery when bathed in, or starved of, pho­tons. Glow­ing blue globes must be set on plinths in a cer­tain or­der to progress. And heavy golden spheres can be rolled around cir­cu­lar grooves to change the time of day.

De­spite the va­ri­ety of ideas on show, Te­quila Works deploys its co­nun­drums spar­ingly and in such a way that they feel like a nat­u­ral part of the world rather than con­trived gat­ing. While the way for­ward is of­ten just the other side of an ar­chi­tec­tural or to­po­graph­i­cal bot­tle­neck, there’s usu­ally plenty of space to stretch your legs and bum­ble about else­where, along with tempt­ing al­ter­na­tive path­ways to mine for the game’s var­i­ous col­lecta­bles and se­crets.

Not that any of the puz­zles are likely to hold you up for long; while a handful take a lit­tle think­ing about, none pro­vide a par­tic­u­larly steep chal­lenge. Nor do they rep­re­sent much of a break in the pace of the game, which moves along in a stub­bornly lan­guid man­ner even when the handful of threats that ex­ist in the game pre­sent them­selves. There’s no com­bat as such, but on the few oc­ca­sions that you find your­self in dan­ger there’s usu­ally an in­di­rect way to fight back. In one area we’re stalked by an ag­gres­sive bird and must run be­tween points of cover in or­der to avoid its talons. The screen tints red the longer we’re out of cover, and the crea­ture’s un­set­tling squawks make ev­ery dash for safety a stress­ful en­deav­our. Later, we must clam­ber about on sheer cliff faces while avoid­ing its gaze, but even­tu­ally the tables are turned – in this case by solv­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal puz­zles whose re­sults make life dis­tinctly un­com­fort­able for the bird.

All of this takes place in a sep­a­rate lo­ca­tion to the open­ing is­land, which was used to show off the game prior to its re­lease. Whereas that open­ing area is idyl­lic and wel­com­ing, this sec­ond open space is sun-parched, arid and char­ac­terised by crumb­ing sand­stone, chalk­white wind­mills, and glis­ten­ing golden ma­chin­ery. It’s also vast, tak­ing in a huge beach, a large cliff-top area, a net­work of tun­nels, some build­ing in­te­ri­ors, a beau­ti­ful un­der­wa­ter reef amid ru­ined struc­tures, a deep-set valley, and more be­sides.

It’s per­haps even more am­bi­tious than the first is­land – a trend that con­tin­ues with each new lo­ca­tion that’s re­vealed. One level toys with your spa­tial aware­ness in a man­ner that makes the now-fa­mil­iar trick of stream­ing in a new en­vi­ron­ment when you’re not look­ing feel mag­i­cal again. An­other takes place in a

It’s dif­fi­cult to imag­ine how clut­ter and stress could have fit­ted into a game whose fi­nal form is so fo­cused and pure

bizarre fac­tory and in­tro­duces a fas­ci­nat­ing new me­chanic as well as one of the game’s most rous­ing mo­ments. They’re re­mark­able spa­ces to in­habit, and the game flings new ideas and me­chan­ics at you reg­u­larly without ever be­com­ing over­whelm­ing. There are times where you can feel way­ward – one pro­longed pe­riod of back­track­ing had us won­der­ing if we had missed some­thing ob­vi­ous for longer than was com­fort­able – and the fram­er­ate can dip on oc­ca­sion, but Rime’s world is nev­er­the­less a plea­sur­able one to ex­plore.

There are oc­ca­sion­ally is­sues with con­trol­ling the boy, too. While col­li­sion de­tec­tion is mostly solid, there are mo­ments where the an­gle of your jump will out-fox what­ever al­go­rithms are go­ing on be­neath the sur­face and see you slip from the ledge you planned to grasp. The boy’s de­ter­minedly re­laxed move­ment speed might also not be to ev­ery­one’s taste, but you soon get used to the ab­sence of a dash but­ton and ad­just to the game’s re­laxed pac­ing. And if you do slip, there’s rarely far to travel; even if a fall re­sults in your death, you’ll in­stantly restart just a few feet from where you tum­bled.

The plat­form­ing it­self is pleas­antly phys­i­cal, the boy’s hand-cre­ated an­i­ma­tion tele­graph­ing what lit­tle weight he pos­sesses with sat­is­fy­ing mo­men­tum. Grab­bable ledges are high­lighted by smears of dried-on guano and the boy is a ca­pa­ble climber de­spite his size, shim­my­ing, dan­gling, leap­ing and haul­ing him­self up onto over­hangs with only a lit­tle ef­fort. The game’s ded­i­ca­tion to fae­cal sign­post­ing is com­mend­able, but can oc­ca­sion­ally lead to baf­fle­ment when an un­sul­lied ledge that’s per­fectly within reach can’t be grasped. Even so, the level de­sign never hems you in un­fairly, and Te­quila has struck a wel­com­ing bal­ance be­tween open-world ex­plo­ration and gen­tle fun­nelling.

Much like Jour­ney, in fact, which is the game Rime feels most sim­i­lar to – not, as pre-re­lease hype has sug­gested, Ico or Wind Waker. There are mo­ments when Te­quila seems to be di­rectly ref­er­enc­ing Thatgame­com­pany’s clas­sic, and Jour­ney is also evoked in Rime’s beau­ti­ful score – com­po­si­tions that are some­times mourn­ful, some­times up­lift­ing, and which sit some­where be­tween a Ghi­bli sound­track and Yann Tiersen’s work. There’s even a mys­te­ri­ous fig­ure in a red cloak who ap­pears in­ter­mit­tently through­out the jour­ney, and stylised mu­rals that serve as tu­to­ri­als and oc­ca­sional ex­po­si­tion.

But while there are sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the two games, and Te­quila’s cre­ation is just as beau­ti­ful – the­mat­i­cally as well as vis­ually – Rime is un­ques­tion­ably a dis­tinc­tive, very personal cre­ation. Although it’s rel­a­tively short, it still feels ex­pan­sive and ex­haust­ing (in a pos­i­tive sense), cul­mi­nat­ing in a re­strained but pow­er­ful con­clu­sion that should move even the most hard­ened of hearts. It also man­ages to lend such sig­nif­i­cance to one branch of its col­lectable items that we im­me­di­ately felt the need to dive back into the game and find the ones we’d missed the first time around.

Te­quila Works’ cri­sis of faith is un­der­stand­able but also, it turns out, un­founded. In pair­ing back its de­sign and fo­cus­ing on only a few key el­e­ments, the stu­dio has cre­ated an un­com­monly beau­ti­ful, open-hearted game. The team’s self-dep­re­ca­tion and shaky con­fi­dence be­lies an as­sured, coura­geously ex­e­cuted vi­sion. The re­sult­ing ad­ven­ture will give you chills, and should stay with you for a very long time in­deed.

This mys­te­ri­ous hooded fig­ure makes fre­quent ap­pear­ances, but al­ways seems to be just out of reach. Given that your fox com­pan­ion ap­pears to trust them, you can at least be rea­son­ably sure that it’s friendly

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