InReview: Rime

Robby Tight
Read Time10 Minutes, 35 Seconds

Warning: Spoilers ahead. Some content in this post may be too adult for some readers. Viewer discretion is advised.

No fancy subtitle, no clever introduction. Nope, not this time. Rime is honestly one of those games I have been meaning to write about since I first started here with CritialStirke but I have had the hardest time trying to formulate to words to best explain this game.

Rime is an adventure puzzle game that is developed by a team with probably one of the best names I have ever seen for a dev team in years and it also sounds like advice you would give to a friend after a bad break up or receiving bad news in general, Tequila Works. Rime was released for Windows computers, the PS4 and the Xbox 1 in May 2017 and was later released for the Nintendo Switch in November 2017. The game follows a boy arriving at and searching a mysterious island with a fox-like spirit as a kind of guide, like Navi but far less annoying.

When Rime was released, I did not have a computer that could properly run the game, so as you can imagine I was thrilled when Nintendo announced it would be coming to the Switch, I purchased Rime faster than a fat kid buying candy in a candy store — me in a candy store. After downloading Rime, I spent the next couple of days practically no lifeing the game and what felt like 30 minutes actually took me around 11 hours to 100% the full game.

While playing this game, I truly only had one minor gripe… framerate. For a Nintendo Switch port of a game that should be played on PC, I come to expect games to have some low frames, sure, but the game was choppy and had fps drop easily below 20 at some points. If you have the option to play this game on either the Switch or other consoles/PC please do yourself a favor and do not pick it up for the Nintendo Switch.

That being said, aside from the issues, the game was amazing! The puzzles were simple yet challenging and the more challenging ones were very rewarding. There are some hidden trinkets hidden around the world you can collect and other hidden lore bits as well. The gameplay is just satisfying, the music is easily one of my top 3 video game soundtracks of all time including Abzu and Journey, and the story was a true tear-jerker.

So Rime begins like as mentioned before, with a boy washed onshore of a mysterious island. There is a giant tower at the center of this island that you can see from almost every spot in the first part of the game, which kind of help as a point of reference for the player in case they get lost while exploring the first island. As you explore the island, you unlock your guide throughout the game which seems to be the spirit of a magical fox that was locked away in a statue. Aside from the fox, the player also encounters a mysterious man in a red cape on several occasions, but no matter how hard you try you can never reach the strange figure. During the progress of the game, the boy has flashbacks about how he arrived at this island. The flashbacks play out in a cinematic style and let the player watch the events play out. The boy and his father were at sea when a storm struck, and the father fell over. The boy tried to save him but could only grab hold of part of the red cloak before the father was swallowed by the sea. When seeing this scene, it is safe to assume that the hooded figure with the red cloak represents his father.

As you continue through the game, you come to additional areas, each individually represents the five stages of grief, which honestly I only found out after reading about the game. During my first playthrough, I did not make the connection but it makes sense now. The first area, the very start of the game when you wash onshore, is Denial. Appropriately enough, denial is the first stage of grief, the area is tranquil and beautiful and the puzzles in the area are playing and fairly simple. In this stage, the world becomes meaningless and overwhelming and life makes no sense, which fits perfectly for the start of Rime. You wake up on a strange island, you don’t know why you’re here or how you got there, and as a child, that would be overwhelming. Heck, as an adult that would be overwhelming. After playing the game for a second time and understanding who the hooded figure was, I feel like his presence enhanced the feeling of denial. You’re chasing after someone or something that is no longer there. The figure always walks away when you get to close or just vanishes when you turn away. It truly fits the stage of grief.

After finishing the puzzles of the first stage, the player then begins their climb up the central tower. You go traverse through small corridors and halls to arrive at the next stage, Anger. The stage of Anger is a vast desert that is the complete polar opposite of the peaceful and tranquil stage of Denial. In the stage of Anger, you are met by a protagonist which is some strange bird creature that tries to attack and kill the boy as the player goes around this level. While out in the open, the bird will swoop and attack if you stay out in the open too long. There are small ruins that are shaded that will help shield the boy from the bird when it attacks. The objective of this stage is to unlock and fix three windmills to drive the bird away. We visit the three windmills in this area and release giant storm clouds from inside them, which forces the bird away with lightning strikes. We’re not meant to realize it yet, but this is representative of depression overtaking anger. Releasing the clouds causes wraiths to appear in the world: these wraiths will appear throughout the next few areas.

Once we complete the area of Anger and defeat the bird, we begin the climb up the tower once more. In the next stage, Bargaining, the player is met with one of the longest and challenging stages in the game. This stage beings with a giant chamber of doors that transport the boy to locations that make no logical sense and the situations only get weirder from there. As you travel into the temple, you will encounter strange walking machines, dangerous shadows and weapons to fight against the dark. Where this stage is more difficult, in my opinion it was one of the most enjoyable. In this stage, you reconstruct these machines and in return for your help, these machines sacrifice themselves to open a number of large brass doors, this represents a form of bargaining.

After a loss, bargaining may take the form of a temporary truce. “What if I devote the rest of my life to helping others? Then can I wake up and realize this has all been a bad dream?” We become lost in a maze of “If only…” or “What if…” statements. And this is felt here during this stage. If only I could get through these doors that are blocking my progression, what if these machines can help me progress? Guilt is often bargaining’s companion. The “if only” cause us to find fault in ourselves and what we “think” we could have done differently. When I learned that these machines were just throwing their newly found lives away to open a door for me, I won’t lie, I felt bad I felt guilty, causing me to search for other solutions. But there are none. These machines were cute and seemed like they had emotions and feelings of their own. I felt sad after this stage which paired well with the next stage.

Depression. Depression is the penultimate chapter in the game. This stage sends the boy to a rainy island made of smooth black rock. Sentinels, the machines you made in the last stage, appear to open the doors and kick down the walls blocking your progress. This stage has beautiful music and scenery that really evokes the feeling of sadness and depression. The use of light puzzles fit perfectly with the setting, but there are still plenty of challenges that the player needs to overcome. In this stage, there will be wraiths as well like from before, but these wraiths seem to just linger around and sulk about. During this stage, the fox spirit that has been helping us since the first stage takes it’s leave in a truly emotional fashion. The music is depressing and fits so well, the fox lies on the ground almost as if it was dead and the boy falls to his knees sobbing. The music begins to pick up and the boy cries out in despair and he is transfigured into a darker version of our character, similar to the wraiths in the area.

This stage fits perfectly for the specific stage of grief, depression. Empty feelings present themselves, and grief enters our lives on a deeper level. With the loss of our only companion, the boy is left alone to fend for himself. He no longer has a guide or friend and he falls into a deep depression. He is left as a former shell of what he once was and is on the verge of giving up his journey altogether. But the boy continues on, the wraiths leave him and allow him to begin the final treck up the center tower.

During the climb, the boy begins to change again. As he comes closer and closer to the final stage the boy begins to glow taking on the appearance of an angel. The tower has a warm aesthetic, with earthy orange and gold colors. We descend the spiral staircase and by some trick, the tower appears inverted, the colors changing to black and white. We pass into the light as we continue on and the game fades. I believe this symbolizes death and passing on. I’ll explain here in a moment.

Just as the tower was inverted, we find ourselves in a cut-scene similar to the ones we’ve seen over the course of our journey, only with the roles reversed. The cut scene is from the perspective of the man trying to save the child, not the other way around. Finally, we realize the truth behind the cut-scenes we’ve been shown: it’s actually our character, the boy, and not the red-cloaked figure, his father, that fell overboard during the storm, and that it is that man that is dealing with a loss of his son, not the other way around.  After the cut scene, you wake up on a strange bed as a grown man. You can interact with small things here and there that you’ve collected during the game and you slowly begin to realize that the room you are in was the father’s child’s room and that the child is no longer in the world of the living. Which is why I believe that the moment before the cut scene symbolizes death.

When you’re ready, you walk the man towards the door and the boy will reappear briefly on the bed, along with his mother, but they’ll disappear soon after. When standing at the window, you have to let the piece of red cloth go to complete the game. This is the acceptance part of the stage. This stage is about accepting the reality that our loved one is physically gone and recognizing that this new reality is the permanent reality. This is what the man was doing by letting go of the cloth.

Rime as a whole is truly beautiful. When playing the game first, I did not expect the ending one bit. I was going through the game enjoying the beautifully created soundtrack and scenery. But after learning more of the story and playing it for a second time, I realized that Rime really expressed the emotions of some really tough shit that people go through every day. Tequila Works designed an actual digital representation of the 5 stages of grief and I feel like it is an absolute masterpiece. Rime is an emotional rollercoaster but it is definitely worth checking out.

Now I am going to play something a little more cheerful and grab a box of tissues while doing so, no I’m not crying it’s just allergies. Shut up, you’re crying!

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