Type of game
The tale behind the development of RiME is as troubled as the shipwreck its young protagonist goes through at the start of the game. Announced at Gamescom 2013, the project was almost abandoned by Sony during the four long years of its development. But against all odds, the game was ultimately released in 2017 for PS4 by Spanish indie developer TequilaWorks, becoming a small gem of its genre.
The nature of RiME is allegorical, tackling heavy topics such as pain, life and death in an almost dream-like setting. Its simple yet entertaining gameplay gives it a meditative quality as well as sparking reflection.
A matter of perspective
A red scarf carried away by the wind over a stormy sea, among the flash of lightning. This captivating opening scene raises questions from the very beginning, but in order to find the answers, the player will have to put together many pieces; both metaphorically and literally, this indie video game revolves around puzzle-solving and logical challenges.
Starting from the first level, a lush island with sun-drenched beaches on which the protagonist, Enu, wakes up after the storm, the player becomes familiar with the main mechanics. Exploring the vast map allows to both take in the stunning visuals – dominated by pastel tones, warm lights, and an atmosphere nothing short of fabled – and learn how to navigate through this mysterious world. Moving objects, altering shadows, and aligning perspectives will open new passages and allow Enu to progress in his adventure.
Despite the absence of any kind of dialogue, the game still manages to offer tips along the way. It is made for stimulating gameplay that rewards those who keep an eye out for details. The collectibles here are more than mere rewards, offering instead precious insight into the true story of the protagonist. A compelling tale that prompts interpretation and speculation alike, but that will become clear only in the last levels.
The importance of balance in RiME
The concept of the game reveals a surprising depth by confronting a complex theme, part of everyone’s life experiences: loss. It does so with a careful selection of elements, combined in a delicate adventure that can be appreciated by everyone. First of all, the immersion with the protagonist. Playing the role of a kid allows one to regain the wonder and innocence of childhood. A naivety meant to sweeten but never distract from the evolution of the story, granting an even stronger final effect.
Secondly, the impact of emotions on the visuals. As the adventure progresses not only the level design but the whole atmosphere transforms around Enu. It matures along with the awareness of the player towards these changes and their meaning. The colorful first levels give way to somber tones and uneasiness, a change of pace that coincides with the surfacing of pain as the core of the narration. It subtly suggests the themes to come but never gives an explicit answer ahead of time.
Lastly, the key role of music and the nuances it adds. In a story void of words, it is necessary to find other means to convey emotions. This goal is achieved in full by the delicate and wonderful soundtrack created for RiME. It becomes an essential narrative instrument to elevate the emotional journey that is this touching game experience.
A journey towards acceptance
The pacing is pivotal to create and maintain the emotional connection, in particular when it comes to a game about loss. Many visually impactful video games, such as Gris and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice have explored such a theme, but what distinguishes RiME is rhythm. During its five levels, it allows the player the time to engage thoroughly. That is, not only in order to entertain but to touch the heart.
Grief is a universal experience, often one that people wish to either avoid or shield others from as long as possible. RiME, despite being open to a younger audience, doesn’t shy away from facing such brutal reality. Instead, it manages to do so with disarming innocence. It leads the player through a journey that while not void of pain, is comforting in its ultimate destination: acceptance.
All the pieces fall into place in the final stage of the videogame, surprising and heart-breaking in its setup. An unexpected reading key through which the entirety of the events in-game take on a new meaning, and that prompts a second play to appreciate it fully. RiME is a title that speaks openly to the soul, for the player to savor and return to when in need.