RiME is a stunning game. From the incredible world to the charming puzzles, to its endearing protagonist, the game has all of the ingredients to have the word “masterpiece” attached to it. Tequila Works have rammed an impeccable adventure into just a few gigs of space. The game is, quite sincerely, bigger than any disc or cart can hold it.
But unfortunately, that’s where the issues lie. RiME tries to do so much that no matter how much it succeeds in adventure building, it’s held back in execution.
RiME is far from a bad game. RiME is an excellent game, possibly a truly memorable one.
The environments are gorgeous and the art direction is befitting of some of our favorite anime and gaming masterworks — we said so much in our original review. The game, which asks us to take control of a young boy mysteriously washed up on a shoreline, lets us explore as much as we want, nearly wherever we want. Its stunning vistas accentuate its world’s haunting emptiness, a still life that somehow feels full of life. Winds and breezes manipulate grass and clouds and light around us, and seem to swirl with the essences of vitality and energy.
We interact with the world by running, swimming, climbing and jumping, sometimes even pushing and pulling, and all of that without words or instructions. The simplicity and obviousness of these actions help us solve puzzles that are often enjoyable and always innovative. There’s no combat; the focus of the narrative on a child and how a child would act and react to their surroundings creates entirely different challenges. In fact, right down to the animation of a kid sliding down the side of a hill and catching their posture at the end, we feel like we’re in an out of body experience, no longer in our 20s or 30s but now a playful 8 or 9 or 10 year old. Its because of this that the developers have made the puzzles tricky but not impossible, getting us to crack a smile after we’ve figured out each one.
It’s a terrific length, too, clocking in around 6-8 hours, bingeable in a day if we don’t fall into the trap of collecting the many tokens and toys and music hidden about. It’s the perfect partner to Breath of the Wild, capturing some of its soul on a smaller scale.
RiME is an excellent game.
Or rather, it would be, if it wasn’t for the frustrating technical hurdles that hold it back.
Ambition is perhaps partly to blame. The game is constantly loading its environments and visuals, region by region, so that it never hits an actual loading screen. It could produce a smooth, unbroken flow that’s integral to the way the story unfolds. This unfortunately puts a wear on the rest of the game though, as the frame rate drops to incomprehensible levels for modern software. Oftentimes the stuttering makes for major traversal issues; walkways and ledges are ever more precarious because by the time the jittering screen catches up to where we are, we’ve oftentimes gone several in-game meters ahead.
Falling off nearly everything is a normal occurrence.
It doesn’t help that the swing of the camera has a mind of its own, sometimes flying from our current position to a predetermined flyby behind and around us. It wouldn’t be so bad if the controls adjusted for it, but they don’t. If we’re pushing forward, the natural inclination would be that no matter what direction the camera is facing we’re still heading forward. Not in this case, though, as forward actually translates to “up” in every angle, and up usually means “off the side.”
And this is all when the console is docked. In handheld mode, the game can often be nigh impossible to play, worthy of throwing the Nintendo Switch across the living room. The frame rate drops to single digits and the stuttering becomes full stops. The visuals seem take an incredible resolution hit, dropping from a clean (albeit not quite 720p) high res to muddy and smeary and muted. Playing anywhere in brighter light completely wipes out the screen in darker and lower contrast areas. The crispness disappears, and hurts the world that it’s meant to be depicting.
That’s the disappointment. I don’t know how much of it is the Switch or the ambition behind the game. RiME is a special, wonderful experience, with a world that I want to be lost in and gameplay that is fresh and yet still familiar. But this world is hidden behind a cloud of smoke, surrounded by static and far too ambitious for any cart that could hold it.
This review is based on a retail eShop code for the Switch sent to SideQuesting by the publisher.