Environmental storytelling and engaging puzzles collide in Tequila Works’ Rime
Our recent hands-on session with Rime, developer Tequila Works’ puzzle-platformer, unfolds on a stunning, serene island that wouldn’t look out of place on a travel brochure. The idyllic setting is marked by white sandy beaches, crystal blue water, lush trees swaying in the breeze, and bird poop.
More than a questionable visual flourish, the avian excrement—an apparent byproduct of the island’s booming seagull population—is part of what Rime‘s brand manager, Andrew Schnorr, refers to as “visual language.” In this particular case, that language is communicating that ledges covered in bird droppings can be climbed.
A big part of Rime‘s appealing mystique stems from its lack of dialog and minimal use of interface prompts. Players are meant to explore the secret-filled setting and experience its many mysteries simultaneously with its adventurous protagonist, a boy who finds himself shipwrecked following a torrential rain storm.
The game’s clever use of bird crap is just one of the ways it maintains this unique sense of mystery; gold items, such as decorative rings that snake around columns, can be grasped, while jade statues magically react to the boy’s voice when he shouts. These subtle environmental cues complement the game’s many puzzle types, a number of which we got to decipher during our demo.
Puzzle-solving is a scream
Our main objective, unfolding halfway through the game’s opening level, involves reaching a majestic tower in the distance. Of course, a number of progress-halting hurdles stand between us and this goal. Like any good platformer, Rime allows us to conquer many of its more minor obstacles with some good old-fashioned jumping and climbing. These actions immediately feel smooth and responsive behind a gamepad, but when these more familiar forms of navigation don’t cut it, we begin to get creative.
Shouting triggers statues to release magical orbs that unlock closed passages. A door with four locks, however, requires a quartet of these floating spheres to be released simultaneously. After some exploration, we stumble upon what Schnorr calls a “resonator”, a large crystal ball sitting atop a pedestal. Upon positioning this object near the door and the four statues surrounding it, we shout at it; doing so carries the boy’s voice to all the statues, allowing the four orbs to unlock the door.
Rime’s clever use of bird crap is just one of the ways it maintains its unique sense of mystery
Shouting also scares boars and other wildlife you’ll run into on the island. As it turns out, screaming at the swine can also cause them to run and break through progress-blocking thorny brambles. Pig-friendly players can opt not to frighten the animals, and instead lure them through obstacles with colorful fruit picked from a nearby tree.
Most of the puzzles we encounter utilize this crow call-like ability or some variation of it, but Schnorr says players will also be aided by additional mechanics, like perspective and light and shadow. We get a taste of the latter when we’re presented with a statue whose silhouette must be aligned within a wall mural. By rolling a large ball on a track, we’re able to literally shift time, causing the sun to prematurely set and cast the puzzle-solving shadow.
Many island mysteries remain
Manipulating the cosmos ultimately clears our path to the tower, bringing our demo to an impressive close. Turning day into night is just a tease, though, as Schnorr hints that the structure’s interior holds Rime‘s coolest secrets. “When you get inside the tower, there are different levels, each with a door leading to a different part of the island.”
We’re hopeful the ancient structure will also hold answers to Rime‘s many narrative mysteries. Puzzling took center stage during our preview, but we were equally intrigued by the game’s enigmatic yarn. A fox—who disappears into a flurry of confetti when approached—and a daunting figure dubbed “The Red Shadow” appeared sporadically during our session, but Schnorr wasn’t ready to share specifics on their significance.
Thankfully, we won’t have to wait long to dig into Rime‘s secret-filled story and inspired environmental puzzling, as it releases May 26th for Xbox One, PS4, and PC, with a Nintendo Switch version arriving later this summer.
- Beautiful world
- Clever puzzles
- Absorbing mystery
- Potentially light on story