“A boy awakes to see a girl’s silhouette in the rain. He finds himself lost in a mysterious world.” Those were the first words shown in the début trailer for Rain at last year’s Gamescom event. The trailer continued to give us glimpse of what this game could be. It’s dark and dreary, as rain pours down on a moody, grey musky, city street, then the trailer continues with “until he becomes invisible, the boy’s figure can only be seen in the rain,” followed up with the boy running through the rain, then hiding under shelter and vanishing. It was such a simple concept – it looked like a game of hide-and-seek, with the power of the weather helping this unknown boy stay concealed from beasts with similar talents – yet I was personally excited to see what would become of this game, all thanks to it been dressed up in a presentation that made Rain come across as a distinctive title in Sony’s ever growing experimental library.
Rain begins with a slideshow of watercolour paintings that introduce the boy looking outside his window. He’s greeted with rain, and then abruptly a girl appears looking at him, as if trying to say something. Suddenly, a shadowy form comes out of nowhere with a terrifying growl and begins pursuing the girl down the street. The boy, being concerned for her safety, decides to follow the danger and offer her a helping hand. He finds himself going through a door that leads into a moody, bleak, mysterious city filled with monsters, and, at the same time, loses his form, becoming observable to the surroundings only when the rain hits him.
A curious aspect of the story is that it is told without any voiced characters or dialogue from a narrator. There is narration, but this is done through white, aerial text that appears around the environment when the player moves into specific locations. As for the story, it’s mostly straightforward to understand – there are no names, locations, and each display of words is often short – with only the ending feeling convoluted. This directness sits well with its atmosphere, since the game showers the boy in this depressing, yet fascinating world that allows the player to be fully absorbed, thanks to the game forcing the user to read the plot within their own mind, their own voice, allowing players to come up with the correct tone in how this morbid tale would sound being communicated to people.
While that approach to storytelling works, it’s not as successful when it comes to the gameplay, which is a huge shame, as the supernatural presence that the game calls “the Unknown” – the Resident Evil 3′s Nemesis of Rain – captures that sense of dread. It’s not pleasant seeing the Unknown walk around, with his finger pointing, acting as some sort of dowsing device to hunt children – such a creepy vibe. The boy doesn’t have much strength, and he doesn’t have the ability to stand up to the monsters like a man with a gun might have, so he must stay clear at all costs to stay alive.
PlayStation C.A.M.P, the team that brought you the intriguing Tokyo Jungle, has created a mixture of adventure platforming with survival stealth mechanics. You climb, you run, you hide and you meet a few nasty monsters that will kill in one hit. Now, before anyone shouts out “I hate stealth games!” the stealth in Rain is minimalistic; it never irritates or feels challenging because the game is extremely linear, and it is always obvious what you need to do to make your way through its three hour tale.
This is kind of the game’s main problem. On one hand, its presentation is so strong, so well crafted, along with the fantastic soundtrack that hits all the right notes, that the gameplay feels shallow in comparison. I thought it would be safe to assume that the game was holding back in the beginning, so that players can get used to sneaking past monsters by staying out of the rain, but the puzzles remained easygoing all the way to the end. The solutions are mostly told to you through the narration, and when it isn’t labelled, they’re easy to solve from how they are laid out in front of you. It’s a bummer because when you’re working with the girl AI, helping each other to survive, there are signs of potential that are never reached. One area has a doll, which you use to manipulate an enemy’s movement away from an area you need to reach. Another is the use of mud or item holding, where if you step out of the rain all that can be seen is a floating item or some muddy legs, which gives you away to the beasts. This, along with the linearity – you can’t explore, and any passageways that seem they could lead to something end up leading to dead ends – makes Rain’s gameplay never reach its full potential.
Even so, Rain is still a very enjoyable game. It’s an experience, a story told through unpretentious gameplay and charming visuals that you forgive the lack of challenge and just go with the flow. It has a distinctive visual style, even though it’s not graphically demanding, and the music and atmosphere are bang-on with capturing the city’s dull and lonely colour pallet. The camera is fixed, used to capture the best view of any situation. Rain is a title that benefits from using a locked camera, allowing the game to stay in control in delivering good and dramatic viewing angles.
Rain is one of the reasons why I love the video game industry. It’s a field of entertainment that offers so much variety. It doesn’t matter if a game isn’t well known or as physically rewarding as another title, because it has other aspects that make it a pleasure. This is so true for Rain. It might not be the best game on PSN or propose much of a challenge, but Rain does offer a good, calm, yet nerving journey that soaks you in its atmosphere from the get-go with an experience and presentation that intertwines with the story like no other in the video game world. Faults or not, if you’re looking for a different involvement with a video game, then you should give up a spare afternoon to sit down and wet yourself in Rain’s absorbing little world.