The games™ verdict on Sony’s atmospheric downloadable title.
Rain makes no allusions as to what its core experience is – install the game, go to the main menu, and you’re not offered a ‘new game’ option; it’s ‘new story’. Distracting the player as little as possible with game mechanics, Rain is the epitome of bare-bones gaming – an analogue stick and three face buttons are all you need to work your way through the rain-soaked environs that make up the entirety of the game.
Taking up the role of a boy that has gained a ghostly form and doesn’t understand his new phantom appearance, you begin to learn how the world works through a series of tutorial levels, cleverly disguised as narrative chapters. The game guides you through its levels by embedding dynamic text into the environment, so as you walk around, you read lines of story on the structures you’re passing under or climbing over. This mechanic keeps immersion consistent; as you’re working through levels, you’re rewarded with verbal content in a game that is otherwise mute.
The dynamic text that appears as you walk through the Parisian-inspired streets in the unnamed city of Rain subtly tell you how to take advantage of the water-based mechanics of the game. The player character’s phantom form becomes invisible in dry areas, and the only clue to your location in this circumstance are the footprints you leave in your wake. You’re only visible in the rain, and you must use the shift between visibility and invisibility to distract enemies or sneak past them – playing as a frightened child, you cannot attack in the game, and the juvenile wonder with which the city is presented feels authentic and valid when considering the young eyes the world is viewed through.
Enemies manifest as phantasmagorias – beasts with elongated limbs and necks, reminiscent of Dali designed horrors: a completely natural fit within the intentionally anonymous continental city. The enemy animations are unnerving and threatening; when attacking, movements become lurching and violent, contrasting against the fluid, languid pace of the rest of the game. Should you fall to one of these monsters, the game over screen states ‘the children were swallowed by the darkness’. It’s upsetting, emotionally blackmailing you into not wanting to die.
Despite the imaginative premise and innovative rain-based mechanics, the game unfortunately falls short with its puzzle design. While the levels themselves are aesthetically pleasant, the gameplay aspects are sadly rather simple, with the whole game falling into a predictable puzzle/chase/puzzle/chase rhythm. Without the option to deviate from the game’s strict and straight path at any point, and with mechanics repeated to the point of exhaustion, Rain certainly shows there’s room for artistically vibrant properties in games, but that aesthetic shouldn’t detract from a focus on engaging, consistent gameplay.