Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC (reviewed), Switch
Developer: Tequila Works
Publisher: Grey Box
Release: 26th May 2017 (Consoles, PC) / Summer 2017 (Switch)
Price: 34.99 (EU) / 39.99 (Switch)
RiME had a rough development history for sure, originally announced in 2013 as a PS4-exclusive, Sony and Tequila Works quickly became silent about RiME, followed by Sony dropping it completly. Now, after 4 years, Tequila Works finally completed their long time project, under their new publisher Greybox, yet the reviews were rather unimpressed by its attempts to copy the unique flair and presentation of games like Journey or Shadow of the Colossus. So, of course I had to take a look for myself, to see if RiME is really that much of a copy-cat … Oh boy, yes, it is.
We awake as a young boy on a lonely island with seemingly no memories and no idea how we came here. These first helpless moments we experience, while exploring the mysterious island, are the most powerful of the whole game, since the more I got to know about the world and plot, the more uninvolved I became. Like Journey, RiME mostly tells its story through images or paintings but didn´t understand how to use them correctly, along a story tryharding so hard to squeeze a tear out of you. During your ~7 hour long journey, it simply fails at giving you a feeling for the characters, you´re either chasing after a caped man or look at paintings, it tries to look as Journey but without any real meaning. Through this very light and stylistic story-telling, RiME tells us almost nothing about the characters, we never develop a bond to them. It might tell itself similar to Journey, sadly never unterstood how to use its devices.
On the other hand RiME´s artstyle and graphics count to one of the most unique I´ve seen, able to challenge its big inspirational sources of Team ICO or Journey. Every single one of the four areas features an own theme, completly different to the rest, from a bright, colourful island to dark, rainy waters. Presented in a wonderful technical hull, offering some pretty sharp textures, shadows and an overall clean look. Enhanced by the various artstyles of the areas, RiME manages to not only look fantastic but keep itself fresh over its rather short playtime. Especially the lighting effects are absolutely fantastic sometimes. One of the few things RiME didn´t copy from its famous idols.
Unfortunately the creativity seen in the visual design couldn´t influence the puzzle nor gameplay design. Around every corner RiME wants you to believe you´re playing an adventure game, or even a puzzler, by throwing different obstacles in your way. However, nothing about the gameplay challenges you in any way, if you´re not heavily guided through the different mostly linear levels, you´re solving truly challenging puzzles like “push the block forward”.
Even without the burden to design complicated puzzles, RiME still fails at providing a constant flow of new riddles, often just recycling them for hours or hiding the solution in an unlogical manner, almost completly stopping the flow in some areas.Everything you do in RiME stays at the difficulty of most tutorials, combined with ever repeating tasks or riddles, leading me to the thought, that it´s rather a walking simulator than an adventure game, something Team ICO knew to avoid but Tequila Works doesn´t.
Yet, the worst thing about RiME isn´t the gameplay nor story, its the not working copying of Team ICO and Journey. What made these games such a great experience were their fantastic moments, visually or game-wise, achieved by an unique creativity unseen from most other studios, combined with strangely mysterious themes, resulting in an unforgettable experience.
RiME can achieve none of that. The fact it wanted to immitate this said talent, rather than understanding it, is the reason for RiME´s incapability to touch my heart. Every place, every task, every design choice reminds me of previously named games or studios, be it the tower we have to reach, our companion, moments in which it tries to influence me by spectacular orchestral music, along lighting design almost identical to Journey, or the scenes we have to hide from enemies. Since it think emotions can be triggered through music and an overall “In your face”-theme, never understanding the heart core, there was never one single moment I truly felt something for RiME. Rather, it reminded me of its idols, due to the lack of creativity or courage to do more than copying, to create their own style and moments without relying on the known things.
If RiME can nail one thing, it´s his presentation, not only can it convince with a gorgeous artstyle and great textures but also with a beautiful soundtrack. Unfortunately, these are the only good aspects about it, since it failed at everything it tried, being more of a copy-cat than an unique game, clinging so heavily onto the path Team ICO or Journey paved.
A game trying to fit into a genre, that lives from creativity, emotions and surprises, by doing nothing new, instead recylcing and copying the moments others lived from, will never work. Along the horribly easy puzzles and lackluster “tryhard” story, RiME may be a great experience for people, who never played any of those games, yet won´t impress anyone else.
[A Review Code was provided by Grey Box for the sake of this Review]