Rime is an adventure game coming to PC, Xbox One, Playstation 4, and Nintendo Switch in May 2017. The game was playable for the first time at PAX South at the end of January, and I had a chance to sit down with one of the developers and play through the first roughly 30 minutes of the game.
I left PAX South wishing I could have played more of Rime. It is my favorite demo of the show, and that’s saying a lot when the Nintendo Switch and The Legend of Zelda are on display just a few feet away.
An island ready to explore
Rime throws you into the adventure immediately. There is very little exposition, and there are no explanations. You play a boy who is only referred to as “the boy,” and you wake up on the beach of a mysterious island following a shipwreck. The most obvious landmark on the island is a large tower, so I figured it made sense to head there first. It wasn’t long before my path was blocked by a puzzle, and I immediately began exploring the surrounding area to solve it.
As I explored, I quickly encountered wildlife on the island and learned that I could interact with them. In fact, interacting with some of the wildlife turned out to be important for solving the very first puzzle!
The first puzzle requires that you activate four statues that are scattered around the island. By the time I found all four, I had climbed and jumped along cliffs, gone swimming, interacted with the wildlife, found a collectible item, and seen a mysterious cloaked figure.
When I finally solved the puzzle, I met another character: a fox… who promptly ran away. I spent the rest of the demo following the fox.
One of the most interesting design choices is how the game explains nothing. I saw button prompts from time to time, but even those prompts lacked a description. Interestingly, Rime doesn’t really need explanations. It only took a moment of experimenting (i.e., pressing every button on the controller) to learn the basic controls. I took note of two interesting commands: shouting and rolling.
The beginning of the game is paced very well. It is designed in a way that new mechanics are introduced frequently, but the game never feels complicated, and the new mechanics never need an explanation. Rime is full of interesting puzzles, but even the most complex puzzles didn’t offer any advice, and solving the puzzles without help is incredibly satisfying.
An island full of engaging puzzles
I mentioned two interesting commands: shouting and rolling. Rolling, for now, was something not unlike rolling in many Legend of Zelda games; it was just a fun thing to do during the demo. However, I was teased with the promise that rolling will be used for something more important later in the game. It seems like an odd mechanic to be intrigued by, but I am. Rolling has never really been all that useful in The Legend of Zelda; I’d like to see what Tequila Works, the game’s developer, can do with it.
“Rolling is an odd mechanic to be intrigued by.”
On the other hand, shouting was far more important during my play time. Shouting activates special jade statues in the environment that have various effects. Sometimes activating a statue would immediately open the way forward, but most of the time it required more thought. Some puzzles required activating multiple statues at the same time, and that required standing in exactly the right place. Other statues worked with a timer, and a series of actions had to be completed in only a few seconds. The jade statues are not unlike switches found in other games, but the puzzles I solved were creative and felt new despite the simple mechanics.
Exploring the island and solving puzzles also required skills that are not unique to Rime: pushing, climbing, and swimming. I did very little swimming during my play time, but it was very memorable. The underwater environments are beautiful.
Aside from the puzzles that you activate by shouting, Rime also has locked doors with keys, blocks to push around, and cliffs to climb. This is standard fare for an adventure game. However, Rime also includes its own take on perspective puzzles, and I’m very excited to see how they are used in the later stages of the game.
The perspective puzzles are difficult to explain without seeing them. In these perspective puzzles you have to orient multiple 3D objects such that, from a specific vantage point, they appear to create a 2D shape when connected. Not only does the player have to place these objects in the correct positions, the player needs to orient the camera to view it from the correct perspective. You can see the solutions to these puzzles in IGN’s playthrough of the same demo.
The environments are beautiful, but the puzzles were the highlight of my play time. Every puzzle is engaging and every puzzle felt fun. The full game has even more variety; the trailer shows a puzzle that manipulates the day and night cycle.
An island I can’t wait to experience
I said before that Rime is my favorite demo from PAX South. I was already interested in the game before playing, but after a mere 30-minute demo, the game became one of my most anticipated releases of the year.
So, as a Legend of Zelda fan, what makes Rime a game worth watching? The island looks and feels like it was taken right out of The Wind Waker, but the freedom to explore and interact with the environment reminds me of my time playing Breath of the Wild. Many of the puzzles share common themes, like voice or using perspective. This is not unlike the themed dungeons that have become a staple of The Legend of Zelda series.
The difference is that Rime weaves the puzzles found in Zelda‘s dungeons into the overworld exploration. The result feels like an improved version of Skyward Sword‘s three large regions with a much larger emphasis on puzzle solving and much more freedom to explore. It’s a refreshing change that left me wishing I could play more.
If you love exploration and puzzle solving in The Legend of Zelda, you will also love Rime. Fortunately, we don’t have to wait long. Rime is scheduled for release this coming May.