It was a little surreal to be finally playing RiME, Tequila Works' extremely elusive title. Originally announced as far back as 2013 and its design undergoing vast changes, the title will at last be releasing in May not as an open world adventure as initially planned but a more focused, concise puzzle platformer. Whatever it turned out to be, however, we were excited to take it for a spin.
The demo was a good-sized chunk of the early game that lasted us about fifteen minutes or so. It begins with the boy awaking before a large door, which is clearly the way forward. As we ran towards it, we noticed the boy's animations were very ICO-like; they were expressive and clumsy in much the same way as Team ICO's young protagonists. As we neared the door, we pressed triangle to activate two teal statues either side with an earnest shout. Lo and behold, the door was opened, revealing a dark hall with a mural adorning a stairway. As we approached, a king-like figure in the painting lit up, along with a symbol in a distant tower. This seemed to be the way in which the story would be told – wordless and subtle, similar to Journey.
Exploring further, we found what we could only assume was a key, and opposite, another door. This may all seem pretty simplistic but it's obviously a section right at the start of the game teaching you the fundamentals of the puzzles. Once we placed the glowing golden key in the door, it opened up to unveil a much larger area, a huge circular courtyard with two lifeless tree stumps in the centre of a pit. We encountered more of those statues, and shouting again caused the camera to zoom right out, showing us a fox sat atop some steps. Following it brought us to a new set of large, mysterious structures.
The game has a well-paced flow as you move from one area to the next, slowly putting two and two together and discovering new places to explore. The puzzles within the demo continued to revolve around the odd little statues and the effects they had on the environment, and the keys needed to unlock the next area. The little red fox cropped up every now and again, drawing our attention towards the next step if we were ever stuck for too long. While most of what we played was quite easy, there were one or two head-scratchers, showing a nice level of challenge.
It's pleasantly compelling, thanks in part to the beautiful world in which RiME is set. The art style reminds us of The Witness or, looking over the fence, Wind Waker. Its light colours and soft edges ensure the game is easy on the eyes, while an understated soundtrack holds up the mysterious atmosphere. We did notice a couple of framerate dips here and there, but nothing that succeeded in pulling our attention away from the game itself.
What we really liked was the way in which new puzzle ideas were folded in constantly while retaining its core principles. Whether or not this will be kept up in the full game remains to be seen, but we think it's safe to assume there will be a decent variety of puzzles and platforming segments. Similarly, narrative elements were hinted at throughout the demo, including an enigmatic hooded figure that seemed to be watching us from afar.
It all does an excellent job of making us wonder what exactly is going on in RiME's world, and thankfully, it seems that the puzzles will offer a fun way of finding out. With only a few weeks until launch, we're looking forward to unfolding its mysteries after our brief hands-on time. If the puzzle variety and invention is consistent as it was during the demo, and if the story can deliver on the questions raised, we should be in for a treat. Let's hope it's worth the long, long wait.
Have you been hyped for RiME since its initial announcement? Has the long development cycle dampened your enthusiasm? Bow to Fumito Ueda in the comments section below.