There’s that old saying that goes something along the lines of it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. Well, the saying is exactly that. And it’s easy enough to affix this sort of sentiment to Rime, developer Tequila Works’ mostly abstract but extremely beautiful adventure game where you take control of a small boy who’s washed ashore a mysterious, other-worldly, yet very Mediterranean island. In Rime, the journey is one full of impressive vistas, intuitive puzzles, and wonderful sound design. But it’s only until the very end that context is applied. Or any sort of implicit meaning. And in a fashion that is both moving in its poetic presentation, but also earned in how it brings closure to what is up to that point already great.
So then, Rime is also about the destination.
Looking at the presentation, or if you’ve been following the game’s development over the course of the last couple of years, you might have heard Rime described as something along the lines of Journey meets The Legend of Zelda. In the age of comparative headlines and snappy sentences that does a perfectly fine job of setting the scene. But Rime quickly takes on a feel all its own, which comes down to it applying the same abstract tone of Journey, with the more traditional running, jumping, pushing, and pulling puzzle design of an adventure game. How it manages to do this, with virtually no hand-holding or obvious tutorials, is impressive.
The fact that it’s able to stretch this sense of discovery and wonder across multiple locations that feel like they could have just as easily served as the basis for the entire game, is commendable. At any given point, you might be wondering what exactly is going on, but in keeping the focus on momentum and trying to solve the next environmental challenge – it all helps drive the overall experience. From a pure game perspective Rime is worth your time, as it provides the right balance of progressively difficult puzzles to solve with large environments filled with multiple collectibles and secrets to find. So much so that once it’s all over the prospect of replaying it is a welcome one.
Like the visuals, it manages to do all of this simply. Need to reach a higher platform? Well, you’ll quickly learn that ledges with artistically placed seagull droppings (or drippings) are ones that you can cling onto. Objects that can either be picked up or interacted with will glow. Large murals will provide subtle hints at what’s to come. And falling off a large ledge will simply set you back a step to try again. With environments filled with large towering ruins, cliff faces and huge caves to explore, another great aspect of Rime is how you’ll never feel lost or confused with which direction you might need to head in.
Which is somewhat of a miracle when you get the distinct impression that feeling lost or unsure of where you’re headed plays a huge role in how you’ll react to the game from a purely thematic perspective. Underneath all the wonderful visuals and mystery there’s also a sense of impending dread, or a need to find meaning. Based on the abstract presentation and how little setup there is, outside of being put in control of a small boy on an island, you might think that any sort of clear explanation would be off the table. But in keeping the big reveal to the very end, Rime transcends the perception of this style of game to become both triumphant and bittersweet.
And in the end, that’s what separates Rime from simply being an entertaining and stylish puzzle-heavy adventure game. By design the game portion comes first, providing an evocative experience where discovery feels earned and the pacing is spot on. The meaning comes later, at the very end in fact, but in a way that enhances everything that has comes before it. And in the process, leaves both a lasting impression and a cathartic sense of closure once you solve the biggest puzzle in the game -- its meaning.