Reviews// Rime on Nintendo Switch

Posted 24 Nov 2017 11:01 by
I have been intrigued by Rime for quite some time. I found the art style extremely appealing and the chance to play something that, superficially, looked rather similar to another of my favourite games of this generation; The Last Guardian, was a big part of the draw of the game.

Rime started life as a PlayStation exclusive but soon found its way on to the other major platforms. Although the game was released on hardware technically superior to Nintendo's Switch earlier in the year, I resolved to wait for this version, largely because I wanted the ability to play the game portably.

My decision to do so seemed to be a poor one. Since release, the Switch version of the game has been rather heavily criticised for being a poor-quality port to Nintendo's hardware. I have to admit that my first few hours with the game were rather frustrating, but there's more to Rime than these technical problems. Let me explain why.

2017 has been a fantastic year for games releases. The Yakuza series, Persona, Super Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild have been amazing experiences that will no doubt dominate Game of the Year lists. However, although I have enjoyed each of these games tremendously, Rime is the game that has touched me the most emotionally.

I have spent a great deal more time thinking about the story and in particular, the ending to Rime outside of the game, than probably any other release this year. It is extremely difficult to explain why this is without spoiling the story. More so than most games, Rime is more than the sum of its parts. Visually the game is impressive but hardly ground-breaking, and the puzzles and level design are generally simplistic.

However, my perspective on all of these aspects, once I had experienced the final moments of the game, shifted considerably. Rime is a game that must be finished before it can truly be appreciated. Very few games manage to achieve this feat - that is, to reframe everything the player has done so effectively. For that Tequila Works deserves an enormous amount of credit.

This approach carries with it considerable risks and the mixed reviews of the game would seem to indicate that the player's engagement really does depend on their engagement with the story. Unfortunately, the Switch version may prevent players from ever reaching the point at which they can make that judgement.

The opening sections of Rime on the Switch are unfortunately plagued by technical issues. Within the opening sections the framerate stutters and manipulating the camera results in significant pauses before there is a response. During these sections, my game crashed on at least one occasion, losing some of the progress I had made. In addition, in handheld mode the game suffers from a significant amount of blurring. This visual downgrade was perhaps incorporated to ensure a smoother framerate; however, it makes the game extremely difficult to control in these opening areas.

Docked, the game performs a little better, with less of the visual blurring and a generally steadier framerate. The problem seems to be particularly acute when new areas are loaded into memory. Transitioning between areas is consequently rather jarring and certainly damages the illusion of a coherent world that the developers clearly wanted to create.

However, although these problems are considerable in the first third of the game, as the player heads into more confined spaces these problems generally subside. Transitions between areas are still noticeably problematic, but the framerate improves greatly and did not hamper my enjoyment of the game. I wanted to play Rime on the Switch because of the ability to play it in handheld mode. However, because of these technical problems I found greater enjoyment playing whilst docked so that the issues would be, to a degree, ameliorated.

Although the technical problems that plague the early hours of Rime may be off-putting, players who persist will be rewarded with a generally solid experience for the final two thirds of the game. Although the puzzles that guide the player's progress throughout the game are reasonably simple, they are always enjoyable. Navigation feels very much like a Team Ico game and the way in which the main character moves highlights his vulnerability in the world.

I found myself feeling increasingly protective over the character as the story unfolded, with some story beats hinting at the overall destination for the character. Visually, aside from the technical issues, the game is quite stunning in places and there is a wonderful coherence to both the level design and the architecture that the player is expected to navigate.

Rime is not a difficult game. However, although the narrative reaches its conclusion rather quickly, the satisfaction it provides is strong. Following the game's final moments, I was keen to return to the beginning to not only piece together parts of the story that I had missed, but also to see how other elements made more sense.

Rime is a very easy game to recommend, with a few important caveats. The extent to which players will enjoy the game greatly depends not only on completion but also whether they feel any resonance with the story. Rime is, above all, a narrative experience, the puzzles and environment providing the means to tell a story, one with which I felt personally very engaged. It would be a mistake to come to Rime expecting genre defining ground-breaking puzzles and level design close to, for example, The Last Guardian.

Tequila Works has succeeded in building a game that is absolutely more than the sum of its parts. It is just a shame that this version has so many technical problems that
consequently make it difficult to recommend on the Switch. However, don't let the technical problems put you off, Rime deserves to be given a chance.

Pros:
+ Engaging narrative.
+ Beautiful world to explore.
+ Excellent soundtrack.

Cons:
- Switch version is rather unstable.
- Visually less impressive than other versions.
- Narrative will not be for everyone.

SPOnG Score: 6/10 (would be an 8 if the technical problems were fixed)
Companies:
Games: Rime

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