In our review of Conarium, OnlySP outlines what makes a great puzzle game. To wit, such titles need to ease players in with simple puzzles, which gradually become harder and harder. At no point should the player feel ill-prepared for the obstacles they come across and never should a puzzle be so hard they must go to YouTube to find the answer.
RiMe is a great puzzle game. Progressing forward at a charmingly gradual pace, the game eases players through a huge variety of little challenges that are pitched just right. When RiMe is hard, players should not get frustrated and are never punished for getting a problem wrong. RiMe seems to trust that players can do better, even with the toughest of enigmas. Contrastingly, at points where the puzzle-solving feels easy, players will feel a deep satisfaction knowing they have worked hard to earn that effortlessness. As a puzzle game, RiMe is faultless and, even with a three-and-a-half-hour run-time, dull moments are hard to find.
Part of this breeziness is due to the developers’ courage to throw the player into many, vastly different new areas, adding new rules and modes of play to learn in each. Each of these environments is incredibly beautiful and well-rendered in a warm-toned cel-shaded style reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The developers clearly wanted to push themselves to see how many different climates and environments they can come up with, and the answer is a lot. Entering RiMe with no prior knowledge of the game is a joyful experience, particularly as gameplay varies throughout, so this review will not delve into what to expect. Rest assured, RiMe is extremely good at shaking things up, twisting the formula, and surprising the player at every turn.
Despite its bright art style, RiMe at times feels like Playdead’s platformer Inside. After all, the protagonist is a small boy very much at risk of death and able to fight back only using his intelligence and puzzle-solving ability to progress. The developers withheld an option to punch or kick and the only defence the boy does have is the ability to shout, which does everything from breaking vases to igniting torches, but cannot harm enemies. The protagonist is a little boy in a world where little boys can die, so they feel an immediate sense of responsibility for his welfare. Granted, dying is not as gratuitous as Inside—since RiMe fades to black when the boy dies rather than showing all the blood and guts—but players will certainly feel great concern for the safety of the young boy, which enhances gameplay.
Dying is not a cause of frustration, but a cause of worry, as players must try better and be better for the sake of this little boy. This trick is familiar as plenty of other games have used vulnerable child protagonists before, such as Limbo, Little Nightmares, and, of course, Inside. In RiMe, the protagonist can be killed by everything from falling off cliffs to being eaten by giant birds, or have his life essence drunk by shadow creatures (which is a thing). He also finds new friends among the NPCs, and goes through the sadness of losing them. Players will just have to sit and watch this little kid go through all this drama. They will be perched on the edge of their seat, terrified for much of the runtime, and worried for this fictional child. This trick is cheap, but one used very effectively by developers Tequila Works.
Another way RiMe keeps people absorbed in the action is by not using any dialogue, choosing instead to tell the story through actions, body language, music, and pictures. This absence has been a pleasant trend in recent years with games including Virginia, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and Inside each using a lack of dialogue fantastically and arguably this trend exists because of something that mainstream game development often gets wrong. The problem with many games is that players are spoon-fed exposition through dialogue and text files to the extent that players who ignore them might have a far more interesting experience.
With RiMe, force-feeding information simply is not possible. Denied explanation of any kind, players have to look to understand the world and characters. Failing to pay attention might mean missing out on a sighting of the mysterious figure in red robes or a painting on the wall of the way the world once was. The sweeping orchestral score from David Garcia Diaz is fantastic at pinpointing the emotion at the heart of each scene, so that, even with eyes closed, players can follow the drama of the story unfolding. Furthermore, as with many games that eschew dialogue, players will likely never know for certain what actually happened, unless YouTube theorists break the trend and get something right. These aspects make RiMe an individual experience, with each story beat meaning something different for anyone who plays.
One of the limitations of RiMe is the game’s slow pace, which might not be for everyone. Players who want to just relax into a calm meditative state will love RiMe, though approaching the game in an agitated state may cause frustration at the boy’s inability to sprint properly and RiMe’s deliberately gradual pace. However, players are guaranteed to have a great gaming experience if they want something slow, easy, and fun.
For players looking for an excellent puzzle game to sit back and enjoy for a few hours, RiMe is difficult to go past. The game is one of those short, perfect little experiences that are just fun to come back to every once in a while for a relaxing afternoon, even if RiMe does not have the addictive, adrenaline-pumping action of many big games coming out this year.
American Fugitive Review — A Grand Tale of Theft and Auto
The original Grand Theft Auto rocked the virtual world with its violent gameplay from a birds-eye view perspective back in 1997. Once the series moved to a third-person, 3D perspective with Grand Theft Auto III, few gamers looked back and few developers attempted to replicate the original style. More than 20 years later, Fallen Tree Games has become of those few with American Fugitive.
Players control Will Riley, a man convicted for a crime he did not commit and filled with the desire for revenge. Once he has escaped from prison, Will must find old friends—and meet some new ones—to run errands and discover the person who killed his father.
The game is played from a top-down perspective in a 3D open world. More reminiscent of Chinatown Wars than the original Grand Theft Auto, the camera adds a level of complexity to American Fugitive, as players often will not see what lies beyond the edges of the screen. While a behind-the-character perspective would, at times, not go amiss, players will eventually grow to familiarise themselves with the camera, respecting the callback to classic open world titles.
The open world itself is also reminiscent of classic titles, with simplified designs regularly complimented by the detailed art style. The game’s animated, cartoon design scheme is fitting of its fast-paced action gameplay, always managing to keep the player on their toes and keen to discover more. Technically, the game plays almost flawlessly, with no significant performance issues to disrupt the player while they explore the map.
Players can explore the rural open world of Redrock County on foot or in a vehicle. The vehicular gameplay may take some time for players to familiarise themselves with, with some overly slippery mechanics leading to some unfortunate collisions, though fitting to the game’s tone. Thankfully, most environments in the game are destructible, so sliding off the road—if the player follows the road to begin with—does not often lead to disaster.
Despite beginning the game as a seemingly innocent man, Will doubles down on his criminal actions once he escapes from prison. Akin to Grand Theft Auto, the player can hijack cars, kill civilians, and attract the attention of police. Most residential buildings in the game can be robbed by the player, often leading to tense confrontations with the homeowners or police, so players must continue at their own risk.
The ‘wanted’ system in the game works similarly to Grand Theft Auto games, with players accumulating up to five stars depending on their behaviour. The stars often accumulate a little too quickly, however, with additional stars regularly added simply for evading police. Oftentimes, the player may possess a full wanted level—complete with large police vans and circling helicopters—within a minute of committing a minor offense. While this over-the-top gameplay design is fitting to the pace of the game, it may lead to frustrations within the main story missions by bringing the player’s progress to a halt.
The missions are also reminiscent of those in Grand Theft Auto, tasking the player with a wide variety of tasks to keep them busy while the story evolves. While many of these missions may seem disconnected to the main narrative structure, they are unique and regularly keep the player entertained, ranging from simple fetch quests and car robberies to full-scale shootouts. The game’s fast-paced gameplay and lack of loading screens also make the poorly-placed checkpoints bearable, especially when the beginning of missions require the player to drive to a certain location.
American Fugitive‘s storyline is simple in design but entertaining enough to keep the player engaged. The game’s ‘cutscenes’ exist in the form of text atop character designs; while some simple voice acting would elevate these scenes with more dramatic tension, they are short enough to maintain the player’s attention and continue the missions at a fast pace. Players will find themselves surprisingly engrossed in the story, wanting to see it through to its full conclusion.
Accompanying the fast-paced gameplay and narrative is the game’s music. From slow, explorative themes to fast-paced tracks, American Fugitive‘s original score is reminiscent of some of the best soundtracks across different media—from television’s True Detective to video gaming’s Red Dead Redemption 2 and The Last of Us. Each song accompanies the gameplay nicely, ramping up and down as the player makes the appropriate actions, and, along with the expert sound design, add the auditory sprinkles atop a visual and narrative treat.
American Fugitive, simply put, is fun. Fallen Tree Games has added its own unique twist to a classic gameplay formula, and utilised a simple but engaging narrative and a beautiful original score to maintain the player’s interest until the very end. Despite a few minor flaws in gameplay, the game stands strong against its competition. Players looking for a fast, fun, and mature sandbox game should not miss American Fugitive.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro.
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