It's such a shame that the game loses its footing like this, particularly in the third act, when it's so close to hammering home the experience. There were a few instances of a shaky frame rate, and at one specific point we were forced to reboot the game, but technically speaking these were small, isolated cases and the game shines otherwise. The first time we visited the mysterious island it kept us curious for hours straight as we looked to discover the secrets the next area held. The game has borrowed a lot of its visual appeal from The Witness and creates an island that looks like a moving painting. It's constantly beautiful, and the diversity of the environments creates a constant need to explore further.
The difficulty also works to the game's advantage, because it's always interested in piquing your interest with its puzzles and ambiguity, but never interested in frustrating you with them. In Rime you're not meant to be stuck anywhere, but you're always encouraged to think a little before it rewards you with access to the next riddle. Sadly, the game also stumbles a few times in this regard. The solution is, in a few instances, so illogical in relation to the rules the game sets up, that you don't feel the necessary satisfaction when you solve a puzzle. You only feel a little irritated, and a sense of relief of finally being able to move on.
For example, about halfway through you'll need to press a button. You can't get to the button because a monster guards it. Every time you get near the monster, it bellows and you fall through a hole to the floor below. The solution? To get even nearer to it so that it can grab you, and that way you don't fall. It's in no way logical to get even nearer to the monster, and the game is very clear in telling you that this is not the way to approach this problem, yet therein lies the solution. The only reason we ended up trying it was that we were completely out of ideas.
Luckily, the puzzles are more often intricately designed and able to cater to all types of players. In many cases it plays around with player perspective, for instance, creating a door by looking at several objects from a certain angle. It's accessible yet endearing, easy yet challenging, and discovering the island is a special experience.
And that's what Rime ultimately is: special. The sources of inspiration are many and clear, but throughout the experience, a certain identity of its own emerges. The backstory of the island's many lives and many perished civilisations makes the surroundings feel meaningful and magical, and that is, ultimately, the greatest compliment you can give a fantasy universe. It feels magical and real at the same time. The game stumbles a couple of times, but when it stands proud on its two feet, it's as sure of itself as the staples of the genre. So no, we're not playing either ICO nor Journey, we're playing Rime, and it fully deserves our attention.