We spent an hour of hands-on time with the new puzzle-adventure from Tequila Works.
Take a puzzle-filled island setting, a plucky young fox companion, and an illusive cloaked figure watching over you at all times, and you have Rime. This gorgeous adventure that takes its gameplay and storytelling cues from the likes of Ico and The Last Guardian is almost upon us, and after getting hands-on with a full hour of the game I’m more keen than ever to get to the heart of its mystery.
Rime’s early puzzles show a promising level of variety. Some are triggered by the young protagonist’s voice, such as a door which has four separate voice-activated statues that need to be roused at the same time. Rather than shout at them independently the player must find and manoeuvre a large orb within an optimal radius, so that it can act as a vocal amplifier to activate the switches in unison.
Elsewhere an opulent golden ball can be rolled along a circular track to scrub forwards and backwards in time, creating a stylish time-lapse effect on the day/night cycle, and allowing the player to reposition shadows in order to uncover a hidden entrance. Rime’s puzzle solving doesn’t only depend on the manipulation of inanimate objects either, at another juncture a path of prickly brambles must be cleared by using a piece of fruit to play fetch with a local warthog.
None of these early puzzles are particularly taxing, but most successfully tread a line somewhere between forgiving and frustrating. I’m curious to see how each mechanic evolves throughout the remainder of the game, and what other puzzle types will be introduced.
Yet it seems like Rime doesn’t just want to play with your mind, but also your mood. While the opening level of the game takes place in a vibrant expanse with passive inhabitants, the second level adopts a noticeably bleaker colour palette and introduces natives that are far more wary of and objectionable to the player’s presence.
The game’s first proper adversary is a giant bird like creature that swoops down to snatch you off your feet, forcing you to dart between the safety of sheltered areas as you continue to puzzle your way through. Rime doesn’t really feature anything in the way of a combat system, but the continued threat of the airborne enemy adds urgency and previously unexperienced levels of stress to Rime’s brainteasers, as though you’re suddenly forced to complete your daily sudoku while wearing a hat made of birdseed in the condor enclosure at the zoo.
Other enemies manage to be menacing without posing an actual physical threat, such as the shadowy figures reminiscent of the No-Face character from Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away, that nervously dissolve into inky puddles as you approach them. Whether they remain as timid as time goes on in the game remains to be seen.
The absence of onscreen clutter makes it easier to enjoy Rime’s spectacular vistas and alluring art style
It’s clear that the development team at Tequila Works has gone to great lengths to make Rime as an intuitive experience as possible. The odd obtrusive button prompt aside, Rime does an impressive job of conveying information to the player in the absence of a more traditional HUD. Instead of a floating waypoint marker, the location of a certain key is teased at one moment by this rather familiar-shaped archway. When the giant birdlike enemy swoops, the proximity of its approaching grasp is measured by the menacing red streaks that close in on the player from the edges of the screen. The absence of onscreen clutter makes it easier to enjoy Rime’s spectacular vistas and alluring art style, both on the ground and underwater.
We’ll know soon enough if Rime can maintain the high standards set by its initial puzzles and set pieces when it arrives for PS4, Xbox One and PC on May 26, with the Nintendo Switch version set to ship at a later date. But after one hour with this intriguing adventure, enjoying its contrasting tone and subtle storytelling methods, I’m definitely feeling curious about uncovering the reason behind the Rime.