Rain is an adventure game for the PlayStation 3 via the PlayStation Network. The game was developed by PlayStation C.A.M.P, Acquire and SCE Japan Studio. Sony published the title and released it digitally through the PSN. Rain first made its debut at 2012’s Gamescom. More recently, it made a notable appearance at this year’s GDC. Much like another digital title, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, rain features two young protagonists venturing into a dangerous and fantastically world. The game was promising with its clever invisible mechanic, but can that appeal carry a whole game?
In the dead of night, he sees her. She runs doggedly from something. He can barely see except for the rain drops quietly falling down on her. The rain reveals the girl’s silhouette as she runs. Then he sees it, a monster with a giant club for an arm angrily running the girl down. Not able to leave her alone, he chases after them when they run through a door. He follows the monster and the girl through and he finds himself much like them invisible except for the rain revealing his shape. Now he is alone except for the monster desperately trying to break through a locked gate to kill him and the girl. Except the girl is gone. Alone in a world full of other dangerous invisible beasts, the boy must traverse the city to find the girl and help her, so they both can escape.
There is an ethereal and sleepy vibe to Rain’s story. The story has shades of a Haruki Murakami short story mixed with strokes of a Hayao Miyazaki film, but never quite reaches the level of nuance or depth either of their stories posses. The story is ephemeral and feels like a wild dream brought on by the sweltering steam of chicken noodle soup and drinking too much 7-UP after walking home in the downpour from elementary school. While a boy and a girl running from a monster in a treacherous place is not a particularly new idea, the way the game uses the protagonists’ and antagonist’s invisibility and rain to convey personality between the three characters adds a level of whimsy that helps give the story a particular charm. Presenting the story though text that pops up as the player moves through the game gives the story a great folklore/storybook quality.
It could never be said that Rain did not commit fully to its idea of opacity and weather in its gameplay. Much of what makes up gameplay in Rain is the player using the boy’s invisibility in clever ways. When the boy is in the rain, he is visible, but if he runs under an awning or roof then he becomes invisible to the player except for his footsteps. This mechanic is the player’s biggest weapon. When the boy is visible then the various beasts in the game will be able to see him and attack. As a little boy if he is seen then he is dead. So, it is in the best interest of the player to navigate through city smartly keeping an eye on enemies and potential places to hide. The draw back is that when the boy is invisible, he becomes hard to control and to make precise movements. So, solving the puzzles in the game and the various platforming challenges becomes a balance of hiding and venturing into the rain.
The puzzles range from simply running from invisible wolf beasts to a roofed area where the boy becomes invisible and they lose his trail to using the sound of puddles to distract beasts so the boy can run away. Certain puzzles involve using the nature of the different beasts to the player’s advantage. One of the beasts is a small, bug-like creature that moves in a pack. The pack of these beasts will devour anything they come in contact with, be it a little boy or another beast. A specific puzzle involves using various awnings to hide the boy while attracting roaming wolf beasts with a gramophone then when the beast is distracted by the gramophone, the boy has to open a grate with the bugs chomping at the bit to get out. As he opens the gate, he needs to go invisible again and if he times it right then the bugs will devour the wolf. Now his path is clear. Many of the puzzles are along those lines running from simple to more complicated, but nothing will ever be too strenuous. However, if it is stumping you then the game will offer a small hint to solve the puzzle. Then there are long chase and platforming sections where the boy runs from the monster (the Unknown) that are intense.
Graphics and Sound
There is a distinctive look to the visuals of Rain. It is a moody cityscape covered in posters, abandoned furniture, buildings covered in grey and brown stones and faint areas of light punctuated by darkness and beads of water. The world is lonely except for translucent beasts with angry mannerisms and odd points of articulation. The various areas in the game contribute to a world that would be inviting if not for the fact that it is all deserted. The Church, which should be a point of sanctuary becomes dangerous and foreboding while a factory that is already imposing on its own becomes daunting due to its emptiness. A circus becomes a nightmare in the night when a monster invades the traditionally carefree and fun local. The animation for the boy, girl and monster all add bits of personality to them. The world has a distinct look and the rain washed atmosphere helps to create a compelling world populated by no one except the unseen. The music is headed by an excellent main theme that conveys the tone of the game adeptly. The score does a great job of highlighting the various high, low and tense moments in the game.
Rain is an intriguing game in many ways. It has a nicely realized world that helps sell the dream-like story. The boy and the girl in the game despite never speaking convey plenty of personality through the minor animations and actions. The presentation of the story is done well through text that appears in the world as the boy travels through it. The gameplay is nothing ground breaking, but it does a good job of using its invisibility and rain mechanic to create some interesting scenarios. Rain certainly is not perfect, but it has enough going for it that it is worth picking up.