After what feels like forever, RiME is finally touching down on Switch. The original game had already endured a tortuous development period prior to its launch on PS4, Xbox One and PC earlier in the year, but Nintendo fans have had to suffer an additional wait to get their hands on this promising adventure, which draws comparisons with the likes of Journey, ICO and The Legend of Zelda. The good news is RiME presents an enchanting experience which can stand alongside those legendary titles in terms of atmosphere and immersion, but this is tempered by the fact that bringing the game to Switch has resulted in a less than satisfactory conversion.
RiME is a game which takes delight in avoiding exposition. You're told literally nothing about the game's story; all you know is that you control a young boy who washes up on the shore of a mysterious island covered in ruins and other strange structures. Soon in your adventure you'll befriend an inquisitive fox and – piece by piece – you'll uncover the history of this bewitching, sun-drenching location. RiME's controls are also kept simple; you can interact with objects, run and crouch, but by far the most important command is your voice, which is used to trigger elements of the environment. Your character is able to shout, giggle or simply mutter to himself; these commands are contextual and depend entirely on what's nearby to interact with.
At the core of RiME you'll find exploration and puzzle-solving. There's no hand-holding here, and you need to work out solutions unaided. An early example sees your pathway barred by a wild boar. Beyond the boar you can see the remains of fruit - the same fruit which has fallen from a nearby tree. Pick up the fruit and place it in front of the boar and it leaves its post to consume the meal, allowing you access. This is at the basic end of the scale and other solutions require not just mental dexterity but fast reflexes; these are combined with platforming sections which see you leaping from stone pillars and using hand-holds to negotiate certain areas. RiME layers puzzle on top of puzzle to create a satisfying stream of problem-solving which ultimately serves as the game's biggest draw; don't expect Zelda-style combat in this game, because there is none.
A special mention has to go to the world the developers have crafted. Governed by a real-time night-and-day cycle, the island is covered with structures, wildlife and flora and is surrounded by gorgeous deep-blue waters. The mediterranean feel permeates the entire experience, while the sumptuous contextual soundtrack places you in the moment perfectly, adding a sense of scale to proceedings but also delivering some of the game's most memorable atmospheric moments. When twinned with its rewarding cycle of wordless puzzle solving, RiME offers up quite a stirring gameplay experience.
There are some issues present which need mentioning, however. While RiME is comparable with Zelda: Breath of the Wild from a purely aesthetic perspective, it doesn't offer as convincing a game world as Nintendo's title. In Breath of the Wild it felt like you could literally go anywhere, and while RiME also employs a "if you can see it, you can reach it" ethos, there are moments when its inflexibility becomes annoying. For example, our hero is able to scale certain blocks but, when faced with smaller, knee-high boulders off the game's beaten track, he simply cannot negotiate them. It's clear that the developers have, to a certain degree, created an illusion of freedom here, rather than true freedom; where you're supposed to go the pathway is clear and obvious, but if you decide to strike out and explore, you'll find dead ends and unclimbable surfaces abound.
Another issue is the controls, which don't ever feel as responsive as they should. The camera – controlled with the right-hand stick – is sluggish to respond to input, which can make some of the trickier platforming sections unnecessarily annoying. The camera also refuses to play nice in certain situations when walls and other structures prevent you from getting a clear view of the action. Add in some similarly spotty button and directional commands and you've got a game which tests your patience more than it should.
The game's modest length may displease some players, too. Depending on how you approach the experience, you can expect to see the end credits in around 8 hours; fully exploring the island for bonus collectables will surely extend this figure, while those who are equipped with excellent puzzle-solving skills (or a guide) can perhaps finish it all off in around 6 hours or less. That's quite short when you consider the amount of time it's possible to invest in Breath of the Wild, but it's not to say that RiME doesn't offer any replay value; rather cleverly, the developers have made in-game collectables permanent, so if you don't manage to get them all on your first play-through then you can seek them out on your second while retaining those you've already found.
That RiME is a stirring and enjoyable experience will not be news to anyone who has already played the game on other systems, or heard feedback from those who have. Sadly though, the Switch port does suffer from some irksome niggles which make it, on paper, perhaps the least pleasurable way to experience RiME. When playing in docked mode the resolution appears to be 720p, and while the game is undeniably handsome there are serious frame rate problems almost everywhere you look. When navigating some of the more detail-rich locations the game stutters quite alarmingly. In handheld mode, things are even more dire; the game is rendered at noticeably less than the screen's 720p resolution, resulting in a fuzzy appearance that almost looks like a tub of vaseline has been smeared all over the display. Despite the significant drop in pixels the game's performance is just as woeful – the stuttering got so bad at one point that it gave this reviewer motion sickness, as the delayed camera controls conspired with the wildly fluctuating frame rate to create a deeply unpleasant visual experience. RiME on other consoles could hardly be described as a faultless technical spectacle, but on Switch things are significantly worse.
RiME on Switch is a disappointing experience, despite the obvious quality of the game itself. As a puzzle-led adventure RiME is enjoyable, atmospheric and at times deeply moving; all of these qualities are undone by spotty performance, low resolution visuals and a frame rate which sputters along like a battered car engine. When played docked things are just about passable, but in handheld mode the game's technical problems sap away the satisfaction of playing it. If you have any other means of accessing the game on other systems then you should pick those over this port; while enough of RiME's magic remains on show, the Switch version of the game is almost crippled by technical problems which unfortunately rob this captivating quest of its lustre.