Review: rain

I’m sitting here still thinking about rain’s ending. It’s one of those games that boasts a simple story that goes deeper than what it may initially seem. Sure, it’s nothing overly complex, but it’s enough to make you think about your own life after playing through its roughly four hour experience. Despite some minor setbacks, I truly loved the game.

It’s not just about the lasting impression the game leaves you with, no. It’s about all of its components. Some could’ve been a little more fleshed out, but overall, it melds nicely to provide an atmospheric and eerily soothing experience that’s unlike anything I’ve played this year.

Leave it to Sony to once again prove why their at the top of their game when it comes to providing their audience with inventive, thought-provoking and engaging smaller-scale projects, free of gigantic multi-million dollar budgets or action overload. Oh, and Resident Evil fans (specifically RE3 fans), you’re going to have a lot to love with this game.

rain casts you in the role of a young boy who finds himself in an otherworldly realm adorned with constant rainfall. The intro details just how he ended up in this world, which basically involves the tried-and-true “go after the girl” trope. The intro is also noteworthy because its visuals are drastically different from the actual game itself. It takes on a vibrant water-colored aesthetic that serves as a nice juxtaposition to the rest of the game’s dreary visuals. It really feels like you’re being transported to a different world entirely. As you can tell, I was hooked right from the intro.

What follows is a boy’s journey in a European-inspired town to find this mysterious girl, all while avoiding the game’s roster of slightly creepy enemies, and one very, very dread-inducing foe. You see, rain is essentially a stealth-based platformer with a small dose of puzzle-solving, all made memorable by some truly intense chase sequences (which I’ll get to in a bit).

Staying true to its name, the game’s main gameplay hook is rain itself. The young boy is invisible in this depressing realm. He’s only made visible once rain drizzles down on his body, and the same applies for the enemies. This makes for a unique concept that you can tell the developers had a lot of fun toying with. Sadly, they didn’t try too many daring things with it, instead playing it safe, leading to a sense of repetition towards the end of the experience.

Free of any actual combat, rain’s stealth is very intuitive and at times challenging. You’ll make use of any portion in your immediate surrounding that can shield you from the rain, thus making you invisible to the stalking eyes of the animal-like creatures (resembling dogs, rhinos and…giraffes?) lurking around. Sometimes you’re even tasked to use objects interspersed about the world to distract the creatures, luring them away from you or a certain area that you need cleared up in order to proceed. Though there are a few standout locales, the areas you traverse run the risk of suffering from a lack of variety at times. What helps keep you firmly engaged as you run through the designated areas in this silent town is the frequent appearance of the main foe you’ll confront: the Unknown.

The Unknown is a towering monstrosity that apparently wields a baton-like weapon in one hand and a sword-like one in the other. It’s unorthodox, sure, but you can’t help but actually be frightened whenever he bursts into the scene. It’s not unlike Nemesis from Resident Evil 3. Actually, the game constantly brought back memories from my childhood, playing Resident Evil 3 for the first time. Going through rain’s many streets and alleyways while being pursued by the Unknown, I found myself transported into my own little childhood realm, that of a fictional Raccoon City in my head. Basically, take every Nemesis encounter in Resi’ 3 and multiply it in quantity. The fear factor isn’t as profound, of course, because by its very nature Nemmy’ is just scarier. Regardless, the Unknown will still get you feeling quite tense as you desperately try to escape his line of sight.

The game’s soundtrack is downright amazing. A little small on the track selection, but every piece is stunning and helps enrich the atmosphere. I found myself keeping the boy idle for minutes on end, just letting my ears be pleasured by the music. It perfectly exemplifies the mood of the game, which is somber and mysterious. The overall sound design is truly an expert showing of the developer and composer’s crafts, and I was just as enamored by all the sounds walking through the eerie world, because I really enjoy the actual sound of rain in real life. I can sit back and just relax to it (anyone else feel the same?!). The visuals are also solid, though a little more variety would’ve been welcome, which could’ve changed up the color palette to keep your eyes as enthralled as your ears. But the presentation is ultimately beautiful, down to even the way the actual story is mostly told through the backgrounds. I loved this method of storytelling as it didn’t abruptly hit you with cutscene after cutscene. And with the characters being mute, their animations and gestures get the job done in bringing their emotions to life.

rain could’ve been a near perfect experience. Sadly, it’s held back by some annoyances and lack of variety with puzzle-solving. The puzzles here are of the basic box pushing nature, with some instances where you have to find a key to proceed. But even so, the game is linear, so you won’t ever really find yourself lost. With such a big town, I would’ve loved to have more freedom for where you could explore. Also, there will be the occasional moment where you may just be annoyed by the fact that your character is invisible. Sure you can rely on the footsteps in puddles and the movement of objects as you brush by them, but some may be annoyed by the amount of deaths this could bring. Thankfully, checkpoints are constant, so you won’t be losing much progress. But that’s what adds to the game’s challenge. I just would’ve loved to have more puzzles and maybe even some back-tracking. Not just to extend the game’s brief length, but to further immerse players in this town.

2013 has been very kind to gamers. We’ve survived the dangers of BioShock Infinite’s floating city of Columbia, the horrors of the post-apocalyptic fungus-ridden streets of The Last of Us, and had our way in the mean streets of Grand Theft Auto V (amongst other games, of course!). Now we have this small game that may go unnoticed by those only eager to play the next big bombastic shooter. In my opinion, I truly see rain joining other games that are listed in conversations touching on the subject of “games as art.” Like the young boy in the game confronting creatures, rain stands up against the big monster-sized games 2013 has brought.

Next time I find myself stuck in the rain, I will surely think of the journey I took in this game.

9/10

               
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