Rime is a puzzle exploration game developed by Tequila Works and published by Grey Box. It is available for $30 on PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Switch. This analysis will contain story spoilers ahead, for those who may want to experience the game first.
The games I’ve analyzed up to this point have all been universally praised. With this game, I need to add the caveat that it won’t be for everyone. And while it’s the perfect game for me, it has some problems.
Think of Rime as a series of Zelda dungeons without the items or combat. It’s a short game, around 6 hours long. I played it on Nintendo Switch, where unfortunately it has some frame rate hiccups. It’s still playable, but I’d recommend getting the PS4 or Xbox One versions if I were you. If you do get it on Switch, make sure you download the update first before playing. Typically I am harsh on companies that release games like this, but Rime was clearly a passion project that had a tragic fate rather than a cheap cash grab. Once you download the update, the hiccups on Switch are minimal.
Faults aside, Rime was one of the most cohesive artistic experiences I’ve ever had. I’m really glad I ignored the majority of the gaming community’s opinions and got it, because it’s seriously in the running for my Game of the Year.
That being said, I am spoiling the entire game from this point onward. So if you haven’t played it yet, you’ve been warned!
There comes a time in everyone’s life when they will lose someone or something they deeply care about. It could be a lost relationship or a lost sense of peace and happiness. We typically experience these losses through the Stages of Grief. It’s a process almost all of us will experience, and yet we often struggle to understand it.
That’s why I am so impressed that Tequila Works has made a near perfect translation of the Stages of Grief into a video game.
Rime’s story of loss is two-fold. First, the boy protagonist mourns the loss of his own life and tries to reconstruct the memory of his death. Second, the father mourns the loss of his son, a blow that comes especially hard since his wife had passed away some time beforehand.
Each chapter takes us through a stage of their journey. Beginning with Denial, the boy wakes up washed ashore on a scenic island with bright colors and a peaceful atmosphere. However, the presence of a dark figure in a red cloak suspiciously like the boy’s lets us know that something is wrong. Moving on to Anger, a large predatory bird pursues us at every turn, the atmosphere simmering with heat. In Bargaining, we see exchanges between life and death, darkness and light. In Depression, stone pillars and statues crumble in ruins as rain pours down. Only after fully scaling up and down the main tower do we arrive at the Acceptance chapter, where both father and son reconcile themselves to their fate.
In addition to the distinctive moods of each chapter, Rime also incorporates repeating motifs. The biggest motif is the circular labyrinth. There are three of these in the game: one in Denial, one in Bargaining, and one in Depression. This motif illustrates how grief is a circular process, that you may never be “over it,” but you may be able to make peace with it.
The exploration mechanic itself is an interesting motif. Even outside the mazes, the way forward is never clear. It can take a while to get your bearings, and you will need to understand the space before you can move forward, both both physically and emotionally.
Keys are also a big motif in the game. The key symbolizes the path forward, the way out, the threshold to the next stage. For the father, it means physically unlocking the door to his son’s bedroom so he can confront his grief.
Finally, the statues provide an insightful motif as well. Grief can feel like someone has touched you with Midas’s finger, your feelings closing in around you, cutting you off from the rest of the world. Everyone else is moving on while you’re standing still.
There’s so much more to this game, but I need to keep this analysis manageable. Regardless of how you interpret the symbols used, Rime has made some excellent artistic interpretations on the Stages of Grief. Having this physical manifestation of the process is incredibly cathartic and has helped me understand my own emotions better when I have grieved losses. It’s for this reason that I find its performance issues forgivable. And I truly hope more people play this game so they can see the genius at work as well.
What did you enjoy about Rime? What motifs or lessons did you draw from its artistic statements?