Indie games have become a staple in video game culture. Each year, the small once-unknown developers step into the light poised to astound us with the fruits of their labor. The next indie developer to follow in that trend is Tequila Works, their publisher Grey Box, and their brand new game, RiME.
Small Game, Big Heart
The tale told by Tequila Works in their brand-new game, RiME, begins with Enu, our hero, washing up on the shore of a mysterious island. Neither you nor Enu have any recollection for how you got there. Without any exposition or any voice guiding your way, the exploration of this world begins. A short time into your journey, you happen upon a fox who serves as your friend and guide, in this strange place. Making things even stranger is a mysterious cloaked figure who watches you from afar, as you complete puzzles to catch up to him and discover the secrets of the island and your past.
This all may sound vague, but that’s by design. Not by me, but by the remarkable storytellers at Tequila Works. Going into RiME, you’re not meant to know more than what I just explained. The reason being because RiME is all about discovery. You’re learning about everything alongside Enu.
At its core, RiME is a completely linear game, with some open-world aspects. The open-world side of it comes from all the exploration needed to find hidden collectibles like Toys, Outfits, and Keyholes, to name a few. You can choose to find them or not, the The story of will continue to RiME develop as you complete each of the 5 levels. However, should you choose to look for these collectibles, you’ll discover far more backstory to a game that doesn’t use a script.
As I mentioned, RiME is only 5 levels long. It’s a game that can be completed in a few hours, easily, if you’re not looking to find all the collectibles. For me, it took about two days, which isn’t unnatural for an indie game. Unlike most indie games, though, Tequila Works gripped me into discovering more about Enu and the island he was on. I even started creating my own ideas for who Enu is and what significance he has to this island. My two day obsession is a testament to the masterful way Tequila Works connected Enu with the audience. Experiencing the interactions with the Fox and the various elements of the game endears him to the gamer, making even the most salty of gaming enthusiasts root for this castaway.
Puzzles with Purpose; No Wasted Motion
RiME isn’t your run-of-the-mill game that makes gamers use guns, powers, or various tools to progress the story. Instead, the indie-game-that-could uses your wits and a little bit of shouting to complete the puzzles that stand in your way. Earlier this year, I attended PAX South in San Antonio. Many flocked to be one of the first to play the Nintendo Switch, including myself. Despite the multiple playthroughs with the Switch, the favorite game I experienced, admittedly, was RiME. It became my favorite for two reasons. First, the incredible art style and music. Second, the well thought out puzzles.
When I spoke to RiME Creative Director and CEO of Tequila Works Raul Rubio Munarriz, he explained that the team spent most of their time crafting and creating various puzzles, in an effort to make RiME stand out and progress the storyline, and they succeeded.
I like to fancy myself as a pretty good puzzle-solver, but some of these even had me scratching my head for a second. Moreover, they invented puzzles that involved the manipulation of time, space, and everything else that only served to progress the story and give the audience a deeper understanding for what was going on.
Not once did I ever feel like I wasted my time solving something or explorating a different part of the level, which is feat in and of itself.
Brilliance in Artistic Expression
In a lot of ways, RiME is an incredibly moving story. What accentuates the emotional tale is the jaw-dropping graphics and art style that is featured all around you. How they were able to achieve it stems from where the developer is located. Tequila Works is a team that resides in Spain, not far from the Mediterranean. It’s said that their inspiration for the artwork of the game came from looking out their window and seeing the sea. As a person who spent most of their childhood looking out to that sea, I can say with confidence that Tequila Works captured the scenery perfectly. There are a few latency issues here and there, but overall, the artwork was sensational.
The Spanish influences don’t stop at the artwork, though. All throughout RiME, you can feel the essence of Spanish culture with the magnificent tones and rhythms of what is a rich, moving score. It starts off lively and innocent, much like how the beginning of the game feels. As you reach the conclusion, diving into the island’s secrets, the tone gets darker and more complex, much like how the events unfolding around you.
RiME’s soundtrack and artwork pull you in and never let go. It helps make the softer, gentler times enjoyable, the frustrating times exciting, and the tragic times heartbreaking.
I mentioned before that the point to RiME is discovery. Heck, even the tagline is “Discover Yourself”. However, there is a deeper meaning to RiME that isn’t known until the gamer completes the game. A message that tugs deeply at the heart-strings, possibly even giving the gamer, including myself, a good cry. The meaning for the game because that much clearer when you discover the names of the 5 levels you’ve overcome. Names that you won’t see here, but that you’ll have to discover for yourself when you play RiME.