Several months ago Rime was offered for free on PS4 to everyone with a PS+ account. Since I pay the $12/month for the service I always check what free games are available every month, and I was sure to download this one and try it out.
It’s an adventure game similar to Journey, in that there is no combat but you have to solve a lot of puzzles and explore all kinds of strange and beautiful environments. It’s a visually impressive game with an evocative score that elevates the many moods and settings of the adventure.
Spoiler alerts ahead. The game is divided into five chapters: Denial, Aggression, Bargaining, Depression, and Guilt. These are, of course, the five stages of grief. The game takes us through each of these five stages as they are reflected in the environments, in the puzzles, and in the music.
For example, in Aggression you rouse a giant dinosaur-like bird who proceeds to attack you and chase you throughout the chapter. In Bargaining you have to solve a number of mind-bending puzzles that involve placing orbs on pedestals. In Depression, the world is soaked in a torrential rainfall. Then, in Acceptance, the final chapter, the game completely changes.
Throughout the game the hero is a young boy with a red cape, but in this final chapter you’re a full grown man living alone in a house on the island. You enter a room which appears to be a child’s bedroom. You pick up a teddy bear and reflect on it for a moment, but when you try to leave the room you turn back and see the ghost of the boy sitting on the bed. You sit next to him, embrace him. The boy is your son. As you release your embrace, you hold the tattered red scrap of cloth that he wore but his ghost is gone.
Alone, you go to the window and look out at the beach and the tropical island beyond, but the image is blurry and dull. With one last mournful look at the red cloth, you hold it up into the wind and let go. The cloth catches the ocean breeze and drifts away, never to be seen again. But then something wonderful happens: the island outside your window becomes clearer, brighter, shaper. The call of a seabird rings out, and the game ends.
That is the true message of the game: when you let go of the things that are holding you back your world becomes so much brighter. It’s so rare to find a video game with a real, insightful message behind it, so I was very moved by this. The entire game, a game which had no dialogue at all, finally made sense.
I looked up what people were saying about Rime online, but I was disappointed to see some people didn’t care for the ending. “It left me a little flat,” one person wrote. That’s a shame, becuase there is a valuable message to be learned here. I guess they didn’t get it. Maybe, they will on their next playthrough.