Rime opens with a boy washed ashore on a mysterious island. Guided by a companion fox, players travel through an emotionally provoking tale set in four beautifully illustrated environments. The artistic style that Tequila Works employs is more akin to living water color than a video game, and the environments take advantage of this art direction to stunning effect. Raging seas, vivacious creatures, and mossy caves pop with vibrant, rich palettes. Other similarly visually-stunning experiences attempt to capture in detail but Rime elicits that same magic in wide swatches. Each environment is a unique set piece requiring time and physical distance to drink in the landscape before diving into its many puzzles and objectives.
Each area has a variety of puzzles to solve before moving onto the next; more often than not, with answers simple to conceptualize but difficult to execute. For example, in one cave there were several torches set in a circle with movable boxes scattered around them. On the walls around the cave were switches activated when shadows were cast on them. It was easy enough to understand what was required of me; moving the boxes such that the shadows, cast by them triggered the switches but physically moving the boxes at precisely the right angles required moving around for a solid ten minutes before I could progress. In instances like these, Rime stifles its momentum. All too often the excitement of romping around beautiful environments and driving the compelling (albeit silent) narrative is halted when fumbling with persnickety (and not particularly clever) puzzles.
Thus, Rime is most enjoyable when the puzzles are simplest and least involved. Dashing and shouting at glowing orbs to open the next pathway isn’t particularly challenging, and that’s precisely why it’s the most enjoyable moment in Rime. Luckily, puzzles like these make up the bulk of what little action is required of the player in Rime, and it’s also times like these where the game is at its best. In these instances the player progresses autonomously through the game without killing the narrative momentum or distracting from the graphical splendor of the world.
Sadly, finicky puzzles aren’t the only design clouds that rain on Rime’s parade. The game also struggles to clearly direct the player. The large environments the game drops you into are as visually impressive as they are easy to get lost in. At the best of times your whimsical fox buddy will prance along and show you the route to your next destination; at worst, you’re left to wander around until you can either spot the fox’s orange tufts of hair or glowing green orbs in the distance. Typically I was left somewhere in the middle, left groping for the next objective more than I’d have liked.
When direction is clear and puzzles are unobtrusive, Rime rivals the best of what other visually-stunning adventures have achieved. It’s when Tequila Works puzzle and level design cease supporting their game and begin hindering it that the game begins to flounder. Bouncing between wondrous exploration and obtuse puzzle solving makes playing a bit like climbing peaks and valleys. It’s difficult to maintain momentum and push through to the end of the journey turning the adventure-narrative from one of the most accessible gameplay formulas to one of the most obstructive. However, those players who do decide to undertake the journey will be satisfied with the game’s destination in spite of its missteps.