RiME had been in development for quite some time and I’m sure Tequila Works was relieved to finally get it out there. The first trailer was shown back in 2013, but the game wasn’t released on most platforms until halfway through 2017. Nintendo console owners had to wait even longer for the port of this indie game to be complete. So, now that RiME is finally out on the Nintendo Switch, is it worth the asking price?
Climb and Play
RiME is pretty simple in its gameplay mechanics. There’s platforming and climbing throughout this short game (it’ll only take you a few hours to finish RiME). The game is reminiscent of a few other titles, such as Ico and Journey, but manages to hold its own identity confidently. The similarities between the two aforementioned games and RiME come down mostly to the sort of artistic, experiential type of feeling that these games invoke. They’re short experiences that try to get an emotional response out of the player without using dialogue. They rely heavily on art direction, music, and sound. RiME is successful in its own way, but perhaps not as consistently as Tequila Works would have liked. Without spoiling anything, there’s a later part of the game where the story is kind of forced on the player through cutscenes, but it didn’t really work for me. I was more entranced by the understated storytelling that most of the game is made up of.
The world that you interact with is decently sized and I found myself occasionally not knowing where to go, to the point of frustration. RiME doesn’t always explicitly tell you where the next objective is so there may be times when you have to wander around aimlessly. I spent a horrifying 2 hours (which turned out to be about a fourth of my entire playtime) at one point running back and forth across the game until I finally found my next objective. The game isn’t always linear and doesn’t hold your hand, so make sure to be hyper-observant.
What can you do in this game besides run around and get hopelessly lost? The boy (I’m not sure if the character you play as has a name) can shout to light fires, break pots, and activate other things to solve puzzles. You can drag very specific objects and collect a few dozen collectibles. I usually freak out about collecting objects and need to get them all, but I was too distracted by the technical issues in this game to spend the extra time doing that.
I realize that this is an indie game, but that doesn’t mean that RiME gets an easy pass. RiME has a clean, pleasant art style, but the textures and models are muddy throughout. Characters and environments are frequently jagged and occasionally blurry.
The most disappointing aspect of this game is the horrible optimization. RiME constantly chugs on the Nintendo Switch, with frames consistently dropping. It’s such a problem that it affects gameplay and the experience in general. RiME goes from being a fantastic, heartwarming adventure, to a maddening glitchfest nightmare. This is unacceptable for a game with decent graphics on a more than capable console. It seems that the world is simply too big for the engine or just doesn’t render efficiently.
As an added disappointment, the graphics are noticingly downgraded when played in the Switch’s handheld mode. The game chugs along just as poorly, but it’s almost like a horrible blurring filter is placed over the entire game. As bad as it is playing on your TV, handheld mode is that much worse.
Lyrics Without Rhyme
The musical score in RiME is basically perfection. That may sound hyperbolic, but to me, it’s the best that the genre of music can offer. It’s soothing and playful, but unsettling when it needs to be. The classical strings and piano are hugely emphasized in their melodies, but never overpower what’s happening in the game. It’s like having a live orchestra accompany you as you run down broken pillars and climb vines.
Songs transition naturally, based on what’s taking place on screen, and don’t feel jarring. The sound effects in RiME aren’t groundbreaking but don’t need to be because they fit the world so well. The music may be the strongest aspect of RiME, which isn’t a negative, but a testament to how masterfully done it is. It meshes together so naturally that you’d think it was some sort of cheesy destiny.
I really wanted to enjoy RiME but there were so many barriers that kept me from that full enjoyment. The base game is fantastic and touching, but the frame rate and optimization relegate this game to a good, rather than incredible, experience. I don’t know if I can recommend this game on Nintendo Switch. I’m not sure if it runs any better on other consoles, but it’s too much of a mess on Nintendo’s portable miracle. It’s a painful dissapointment, because there’s a shining diamond buried underneath all the dirt.
RiME is a freaking beautiful and even fun experience- one that is marred by almost constant performance issues on the Nintendo Switch, including frame drops and skips.