By William Haderlie / April 24th, 2019
|Developer||Rainbite Limited, Sonoshee|
|Release Date||February 19th, 2019|
|Platform||PlayStation 4 Pro|
|Age Rating||ESRB – E for Everyone|
Rym 9000 was a very difficult game to review. Not necessarily because the game itself was difficult, although it is. But more because I had a difficult time enjoying the game due to an artistic choice by the developers. I will say up front that the game looks better in action than it does in screenshots, so I would strongly suggest that any readers watch the trailer at the end of the review before they make any purchasing decisions. Still, for me, it was difficult to get into the game because of the frenetic art style without clean lines. At the same time, I do still applaud the designers for trying something new instead of being like every other vertical shooter. This is a genre of games that was fallow for a long time, but has had quite the resurgence during the indie boom of the internet era. So it can be difficult to stand out, and Rym 9000 does stand out even beyond the visual style.
The story of Rym 9000 is pretty far out there, but it is strongly reminiscent of anime plot lines like Neon Genesis Evangelion. If they left the story at just the few paragraphs in the opening, it would be a mere footnote. But they do fill in a lot of details as you go through the game by tying story unlocks to the achievement structure of the game. For instance, if you kill every enemy of a certain type in a level you will not only get a trophy, but you will also be able to read several more paragraphs of story that will fill in the world and story surrounding the game. While this wouldn’t necessarily work for every game type, for a space shooter it makes sense. It’s a genre that is built from the ground up to reward perfect play amidst brutal difficulty, it just gets ignored by those complaining about difficulty in games currently because the genre isn’t as popular as Soulsborne is. But in genres where the story is more central to the experience, I could see this system being more frustrating than rewarding.
Once you get past the story opening, you reach the launch menu screen. The initial impression Rym 9000 gave me from the menu screen was that this was a cell phone game ported to the PlayStation 4. If you press right, you go to the options menu. If you press left you go to the global score leaderboard and the rewards menu (where you can read more about the story and set your background style). If you press down you can select which stage you start on and pressing up launches your fighter into the game. That is basically also how cell phone games work, so that’s why I thought this game was a port from there. It turns out that Rym 9000 started out as a Steam Greenlight game, so my impression was mistaken. It is a very good thing that the game features an easy to access stage select, however, because you will want the ability to skip right to a stage you are struggling with. This isn’t like so many other games in the genre, you only have one life and there are no continues.
The easiest way to describe the action of Rym 9000 is by first laying out what it isn’t. There are not multiple ship types, there are no speed upgrades, there are no bombs, there are only two types of weapon upgrades, the weapon upgrades are very rare, and you have no shield meter. You do have a shield of sorts, though it works differently than any other game I’ve played. Basically you can get hit once and your ship will react by giving you the most powerful shot combination in the game. If you get hit again while you have that ultimate shot, then you die. However, if you can last long enough with the ultimate shot, a + icon (you can just make it out in the screenshot above) will appear and by absorbing that you can return to your normal shot and regain that single use shield. You may choose to just keep the ultimate shot power, but it’s risky to be only a single blow away from death and a game over. When you have your shield up and your normal shot you will rarely come across a weapon upgrade point that will let you choose between a spread shot or a vertical missile barrage shot. So there is also incentive to do a no hit run as well. Unfortunately that can be very difficult because of how slow you move compared to how large the enemies are on the very small screen real estate.
Due to the large bullets, large enemies, and slow ship movement the playstyle of the game comes down mostly to memorization of the stages. Once the enemies are on the screen you do not have a lot of time to react to what they are doing, you need to already be where you are supposed to be. This is especially true of the enemies that come from behind, but it works out from the front as well. The enemy ships are quite a bit faster than you are. There is a certain rhythm to the combat that will be attractive for certain types of gamers, but I personally prefer a more reactive game than one that focuses on memorization. But the developers did some interesting things with this style, especially when it comes to the bosses.
In SHUMPs bosses always feature very prominently in the gameplay, it’s a genre staple. The memorization style of Rym 9000 makes the bosses perhaps more interesting than some other entries in the genre. Because you do need to practice them enough to read their tells and get moving to the safe point before they arrive at the destination. Initially this was frustrating to me, especially after playing so much Sekiro, but I learned to enjoy it. The bosses have multiple stages and require so much damage to kill that they end up being around half of the entire stage length. So the balance of the game ends up being that you treat the stages as a cooldown period between boss fights. The one knock I have against the bosses is the same as I have about the rest of the game as well, the art style obfuscates their actions and their hit boxes enough to prompt frustration.
Before I list off the negatives for Rym 9000, I want to focus on the largest positive in the game, its soundtrack. The soundtrack to the game was composed by Roex, which is featured very prominently in the opening scene (as you see above). This is for good reason, this is not a rhythm game but the music is very forward in the sound mix like a games of that genre. And quality wise, this is one of the better soundtracks you will hear, even in a genre known for killer music. Honestly I would have enjoyed the game more if it was a just a visualizer with that art design while doing nothing but listening to the soundtrack. That doesn’t speak well of the gameplay, but it is my honest reaction to the game overall. So I hope that this is only the beginning of Roex contributing music to games.
I had to take a break from this game and come back to it twice for review. So it ended up taking me a lot longer than I planned, even though the game itself is only 5 stages and is only around 30 min to an hour long overall. One reason for that is not the game’s fault, it’s because this was the game I was reviewing after Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and I really was not in the mood to play anything else but that game for several days after (even after getting the Platinum trophy). So that was my first break, and I came back to Rym 9000 when I felt more ready to give it a fair shot. Unfortunately I bounced off it again due to the art style. As I’ve said several times in the review, it just is not an art style that really speaks to me. But I do appreciate what they were going for, so I am trying to not be too critical of it. Where I will be critical is that the fuzzy lines and color pallets tend to wash together and create situations where you didn’t see what killed you. And the more complicated the background or the more occlusion there is on the screen, the more likely that is to happen. And given that the game does not have multiple lives or any continues, that makes it even more frustrating when it happens.
I think the developers largely succeeded in achieving their vision for Rym 9000, so I don’t want to come down too hard on it. It’s not like there are any bugs or real problems with the game, the speed of the ship and the art style just really make it not a game that I enjoyed very much. The 5 stages do offer some good variety, even if the game is rather short. While it may take less than an hour to play through the game, you are very unlikely to be able to complete it until you have put in at least 5 to 10 times that amount of time. It’s hard to argue with the $7.99 price point, the game is worth it for the soundtrack alone. But if you are going to actually play the game, you may want to watch the trailers, which will give you a better idea of how the game plays than I can with screenshots or description. Even if it didn’t work overall for me, I have a lot of respect for the developers bringing a different artistic aesthetic to a very crowded genre.
Review Code Provided By The Publisher
PlayStation 4 proPSNRainbite LimitedRYM 9000Sonosheevertical shooter