Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Grey Box
Developer: Tequila Works
Release Date: Nov. 14, 2017 (US), Nov. 17, 2017 (EU)

About David Silbert

I'm a recent college graduate from Boston, MA. When I'm not writing for WorthPlaying, I'm probably researching Celtics trade rumors or struggling to keep up with the growing library on my Nintendo Switch.


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Switch Review - 'RiME'

by David Silbert on Dec. 6, 2017 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

RiME is an open-world, third-person view, adventure and puzzle game.

Buy RiME

The artistic merit of video games has been debated since the creation of the medium. For every game that pushes the boundaries of interactive storytelling, people will point to others that promote mindless violence and perpetuate cultural stereotypes. Yet nowadays, as independent game development and digital consumption continue to grow, artistic games are becoming increasingly more frequent. From 2012's Journey to this year's What Remains of Edith Finch, games continue to tackle emotional subjects in exciting ways.

Rime is the latest game to enter the "games as art" discussion. Initially teased at Gamescom 2013, Rime finally released this May for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, touting an emotional story in line with Fumito Ueda's Ico and a colorful cel-shaded art style reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Near release, however, it was revealed that Nintendo Switch owners would have to wait until a later date to get their hands on the game. To add salt to the wound, those who'd wait would also be paying an extra $10 "Switch tax" for the physical release.

Fast-forward to November 2017, and Rime on Switch is equal parts inspiring and disappointing. Porting the game to Nintendo's handheld-console hybrid has proved particularly difficult for developer Tequila Works, and after nearly six months of enlisted help by Australian-based Tantalus Media, Rime has finally arrived on Nintendo's platform at a premium $40 price. It's hard not to be let down by the final product.

Crippled by constant frame rate issues when docked and dramatically poorer resolution in handheld mode, Rime fails to provide an immersive experience for players. While its entrancing world, satisfying puzzles, and emotional story manage to transcend these technical issues, Rime on Nintendo Switch was hardly worth the wait, nor the added price tag.

Rime opens on a tranquil note. After a brief cut scene of a thunderstorm raging over an ocean, the game cuts to a deserted island. Amid the murmur of the sea and squawking of nearby seagulls, players awaken as a nameless boy who has drifted ashore. With no form of guidance except the view of a mysterious white tower in the distance, players make their way across the island, solving its puzzles and uncovering its mysteries.

The mystery behind Rime's island and protagonist is a large driver of its story. With no dialogue to speak of, Rime communicates through awe-inspiring sights and emotional sounds. Throughout the six-hour journey, players will traverse open plains, navigate dark caverns, and explore moss-laden ruins. In between moments of serenity and beauty, Rime tasks players with completing various puzzles. These range from traditional block-pushing and ball-rolling to more interesting conundrums, like taking cover from a flying bird.

These puzzles, while simple to solve, are nonetheless engaging and enjoyable. While not as complex or distinct as those found in other puzzle games like Braid or Portal, the puzzles of Rime act as atmospheric palate cleansers that provide glimpses into Rime's magical world. From manipulating time and creating shadows on walls to activating a lonely golem and escorting it back to its mechanical brethren, Rime's gameplay makes up for its simplicity with sheer variety. While some of its more straightforward puzzles could have been sped up (God of War cleverly allowed Kratos to kick stone blocks back in 2005), Rime provides plenty of entertainment within its brief runtime.

Like many adventure games before it, gameplay and story go hand-in-hand in Rime. The more players complete the various riddles and puzzles, the more they learn about the world and characters. Brief, periodic cut scenes are interspersed throughout the game, adding weight to Rime's narrative and slowly shedding light on the backstory and motivation of its young protagonist. In general, Rime focuses primarily on showcasing its world and locales, electing for players to deduce most of its story on their own.

That isn't to say that Rime pulls punches when it comes to delivering dramatic moments. Several story beats hit quick and hard, especially during the latter half of the game, and it left me in tears on more than one occasion. Its ending also manages to put the entire experience in a whole new light; encouraged players may want to replay the game to pick up on details they might have previously missed.

As strong as Rime is both in its gameplay and storytelling, the experience falls apart when it comes to technical performance. While Rime had well-documented frame rate issues on PC, PS4, and Xbox One, the game absolutely suffers on Nintendo Switch. In docked mode, where the system outputs at maximum power, the game struggles to maintain 30 frames per second. While occasional dips could have been overlooked (especially for a game as puzzle-oriented as this), the reality is that Rime hovers closer to 20 fps for more than half of its total runtime. While performance improves for the final third of the game, the overall frequency and severity of these drops drastically hindered my appreciation of whatever was happening on-screen at the time.

Given Rime's woes when docked, I was almost scared to take the game out of the dock and try it in handheld mode. A huge sell of Rime on Switch has undoubtedly been the ability to play it on the go. Unfortunately for those looking to do so, Rime is essentially unplayable in handheld mode. In order to avoid compromising the scope of the game for the Switch port, Tequila Works made the decision to lower the resolution of the game when undocked. While this is not uncommon for Switch games, the degree to which this was done for Rime makes it appear like an abstract painting on the tiny screen. As I struggled to decipher what was ahead of me, I felt as if I were staring into an impressionist work by Claude Monet. Colors blended together, and the foreground and background became almost indiscernible from one another. Unless you don't mind playing a pixelated impostor of the real thing, Rime on Switch needs to be played when docked. Even then, you're better off playing it on PC, PS4 or Xbox One.

Despite all of its technical stumbles, Rime still manages to impress with its artistic presentation. The island pops with lush greenery, royal blues, and bright reds and whites, not unlike 2016's The Witness. Its use of cel-shading also establishes a Pixar-like appearance to its characters and environments. Topping off the presentation is Rime's emotionally driven soundtrack. Employing a generous dose of strings and piano, composer David García Díaz provides effective, sweeping orchestral backdrops in tandem with more restrained, mysterious melodies. The result is an audiovisual pairing that helps to sell the awe and wonder of Rime's world, even with technical problems holding it back at every turn.

Had it run better, Rime would've been an easy recommendation. Its story offers a tantalizing look into a beautifully realized and poetically orchestrated world of magic, love and loss. Its gameplay, while simple, offers satisfying puzzles that guide the action in meaningful ways. However, severe frame rate drops and unbearable resolution compromises hold back the final product from the greatness it deserves. While there is enough good here to overshadow the optimization problems on display, avoid the Switch port of Rime unless you have no better option.

Score: 7.3/10

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