RiME: Nintendo Switch Review
RiME is a game which takes delight in avoiding exposition. You’re told literally nothing about the game’s story; all you know is that you control a young boy who washes up on the shore of a mysterious island covered in ruins and other strange structures. Soon in your adventure you’ll befriend an inquisitive fox and – piece by piece – you’ll uncover the history of this bewitching, sun-drenching location. RiME’s controls are also kept simple; you can interact with objects, run and crouch, but by far the most important command is your voice, which is used to trigger elements of the environment. Your character is able to shout, giggle or simply mutter to himself; these commands are contextual and depend entirely on what’s nearby to interact with.
At the core of RiME you’ll find exploration and puzzle-solving. There’s no hand-holding here, and you need to work out solutions unaided. An early example sees your pathway barred by a wild boar. Beyond the boar you can see the remains of fruit – the same fruit which has fallen from a nearby tree. Pick up the fruit and place it in front of the boar and it leaves its post to consume the meal, allowing you access. This is at the basic end of the scale and other solutions require not just mental dexterity but fast reflexes; these are combined with platforming sections which see you leaping from stone pillars and using hand-holds to negotiate certain areas. RiME layers puzzle on top of puzzle to create a satisfying stream of problem-solving which ultimately serves as the game’s biggest draw; don’t expect Zelda-style combat in this game, because there is none.
There are some issues present which need mentioning, however. While RiME is comparable with Zelda: Breath of the Wild from a purely aesthetic perspective, it doesn’t offer as convincing a game world as Nintendo’s title. In Breath of the Wild it felt like you could literally go anywhere, and while RiME also employs a “if you can see it, you can reach it” ethos, there are moments when its inflexibility becomes annoying.
The game’s modest length may displease some players, too. Depending on how you approach the experience, you can expect to see the end credits in around 8 hours; fully exploring the island for bonus collectables will surely extend this figure, while those who are equipped with excellent puzzle-solving skills (or a guide) can perhaps finish it all off in around 6 hours or less. That’s quite short when you consider the amount of time it’s possible to invest in Breath of the Wild, but it’s not to say that RiME doesn’t offer any replay value; rather cleverly, the developers have made in-game collectables permanent, so if you don’t manage to get them all on your first play-through then you can seek them out on your second while retaining those you’ve already found.
RiME on Switch is a disappointing experience, despite the obvious quality of the game itself. As a puzzle-led adventure RiME is enjoyable, atmospheric and at times deeply moving; all of these qualities are undone by spotty performance, low resolution visuals and a frame rate which sputters along like a battered car engine. When played docked things are just about passable, but in handheld mode the game’s technical problems sap away the satisfaction of playing it. If you have any other means of accessing the game on other systems then you should pick those over this port; while enough of RiME’s magic remains on show, the Switch version of the game is almost crippled by technical problems which unfortunately rob this captivating quest of its lustre.