Rime and rea­son to play

A beau­ti­ful world that’s fun to explore but is let down by poor puz­zles.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Technology - By MOR­GAN SHAVER — Shack­news.com/Tribune News Service

LET me pref­ace this re­view by stat­ing that Rime isn’t for ev­ery­one. It’s a slow, solemn puz­zle plat­former that re­quires a lot of pa­tience.

If you aren’t a fan of the genre, you won’t be able to ex­tract the full ex­pe­ri­ence that the game has to of­fer

Ad­di­tion­ally, among the top ques­tions asked in re­la­tion to Rime is whether or not it’s worth pur­chas­ing on the Nin­tendo Switch.

My quick an­swer is yes, but I want to stress the im­por­tance of sep­a­rat­ing the two en­ti­ties. Rime wasn’t a game built ex­clu­sively for the Switch, de­spite graph­i­cal com­par­isons to The Leg­end of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Rime plays like a pas­sion project, a cre­ative land­scape pulled straight from a dream.

When you first load up the game, you no­tice just how gor­geous Rime is to look at. From the shim­mer­ing wa­ters, to the breath­tak­ing day/night cy­cle, right down to the ivory white tow­ers that you climb and explore, Rime is a vis­ual marvel.

These mes­meris­ing vis­tas are given ex­tra beauty as they’re backed by a pow­er­ful sound­track (one of my favourite game sound­tracks of 2017 thus far).

Ar­guably, the game’s two great­est strengths are its vi­su­als and sound. Where it starts to fall short is the de­liv­ery of its mes­sage. With that, I want to dive a lit­tle deeper into its story; namely, what it got right and what it got wrong.

(Note: A full spoiler warn­ing is in ef­fect for the re­main­der of the re­view. If you haven’t com­pleted Rime, I sug­gest re­turn­ing once the game is com­pleted.)

Story sum­mary (spoil­ers ahead)

The story of Rime begins with a young boy stranded on a mys­te­ri­ous is­land. Now, I want to re­frain from mak­ing too many com­par­isons to games like Jour­ney or Abzu, but there are a few sim­i­lar­i­ties worth men­tion­ing to fans of this par­tic­u­lar cat­e­gory of games who may be in­ter­ested in pick­ing up Rime.

First, there’s no di­a­logue in Rime ,as the boy is restricted to in­ter­act­ing with the world around him by shout­ing out to blue stat­ues, or by hum­ming to him­self.

Sec­ond, you’re given no in­struc­tion on how to solve the var­i­ous puz­zles you en­counter. They’re kept pur­pose­fully sim­ple so that you can fig­ure them out on your own, while en­sur­ing they’re cum­ber­some enough to make you feel like you ac­com­plished some­thing.

Fi­nally, the melan­choly tone that seems to per­vade the game from start to fin­ish bor­rows a lot from anony­mous char­ac­ters found in Jour­ney and Abzu. Even by the game’s end­ing, you don’t know much about the boy and his life be­fore find­ing him­self stranded on the is­land.

Fur­ther­more, Rime wastes no time in­tro­duc­ing you to the mys­te­ri­ous fig­ure in the red cloak whom the boy chases through­out the game. It’s in these mo­ments that you get the feel­ing that the boy has lost some­thing (or some­one) that was close to him.

Aside from chas­ing the mys­te­ri­ous cloaked fig­ure, the boy is ac­com­pa­nied by a mys­ti­cal fox you free from stone. De­spite how wel­come it is to have a friend, the mys­ti­cal fox isn’t in­her­ently real, and you’re ac­tu­ally given glimpses of this through­out the game if you pay close enough at­ten­tion.

For ex­am­ple, the fox ap­pears to be com­posed of del­i­cate au­tumn leaves, es­pe­cially in mo­ments where you see the fox jump­ing around. Rime seems to be a re­al­i­sa­tion of com­ing to terms with some­thing that can­not be changed, that’s set in stone like the stat­ues of peo­ple (which re­mind me a lot of Pom­peii) that the boy en­coun­ters in the later stages of the game.

Change in pace

The first half of Rime is stoic, de­tached, and re­served, while the mid­dle is the epi­cen­tre of ac­tion. De­spite being en­joy­able, it’s the end­ing that el­e­vates the game. No­tably, each char­ac­ter’s fi­nal ac­cep­tance of the truth de­spite how painful this truth is.

In­deed, Rime di­verts from the am­bigu­ous end­ings of other games in this genre and in­stead adopts an end­ing that’s far more grim.

The per­son within the red cloak is the boy’s for­mer self, who he be­came sep­a­rated from af­ter per­ish­ing in a ship­wreck.

At the end, the boy con­fronts a stone im­age of him­self and re­alises that his fate is set in stone. He has crossed over to an­other realm, leav­ing his fa­ther and for­mer life behind. The fox dis­solves away in his arms, and he cries out ac­ti­vat­ing the stone’s pow­ers which en­cases him in stone.

Within the stone, you can hear the an­guish in the boy’s voice as he con­tin­ues scream­ing. When he fi­nally breaks out of his stone chrysalis, he emerges as a black shadow and watches the other shad­ows de­scend into a dark chasm. With his quest com­plete and nowhere else left to go, he fol­lows the shad­ows down into the dark­ness. Mean­while, his fa­ther completes a more tra­di­tional griev­ing process.

You see the boy’s fa­ther sit with the key to his son’s room in his hands. Af­ter work­ing up the courage, he fi­nally un­locks the boy’s bed­room and stares out the win­dow at the sea. Soon, he’s greeted by a spec­tral im­age of his son, whom he’s al­lowed to hug be­fore the boy dis­ap­pears.

This helps give his fa­ther clo­sure. With the last scrap of his son’s red rain­coat (not a cloak af­ter all) in his hands, he re­leases it into the wind which car­ries it off to sea, sym­bol­is­ing that he’s fi­nally ac­cepted the real­ity of the loss he’s suf­fered. The sight of him let­ting go both lit­er­ally and metaphor­i­cally is one of the hard­est parts of Rime to stom­ach.

Gut punch

Even though these two char­ac­ters are fic­tional, you can re­ally feel the weight of their tragedy.

As such, the game’s end­ing is the most praise­wor­thy com­po­nent of its story.

Un­for­tu­nately, the mean­ing can get mud­died by some of the forced am­bi­gu­ity in Rime. You can guess that some­thing has hap­pened, but the re­al­i­sa­tion that the boy has been dead the whole time feels like it comes out of left field in a way.

Some have even com­pared it to the end­ing to M. Night Shya­malan’s cult clas­sic, The Sixth Sense. Only this time, it’s the boy who’s been dead all along.

I can’t fault Rime for the por­tions of the story that I feel didn’t work, though, as I con­cluded the game feel­ing in­cred­i­bly moved by the fi­nal act. Rime isa slow burn, and isn’t for gamers who find them­selves bored by games like Abzu or Dear Es­ther.

Fur­ther­more, if you’re only in­ter­ested in Rime be­cause it’s a new IP com­ing to the Switch, you may want to do a bit more re­search be­fore writ­ing it off as ei­ther “good” or “bad”.

Rime lives up to the rep­u­ta­tion set by its pre­de­ces­sors. No, it’s not Jour­ney nor does it have to be. It may use the same con­ven­tions, but the last half of the game suc­ceeded in flip­ping things on their head.

It’s a tragic tale, one that de­serves far more recog­ni­tion and praise than it has cur­rently been re­ceiv­ing.

RIME (Tequila Works, QLOC)

Puz­zle plat­former for PC, PS4, Switch

PRICE: RM58 for PC; US$29.90 (RM130) for PS4

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