Rain review: A captivating piece of art that flows with emotion
Back in March, I referred to PlayStation C.A.M.P.'s then newly-revealed Rain as the 2013's Journey. Anyone who has played Thatgamecompany's hit title probably knows exactly what I'm referring to -- the feeling of awe you experienced upon taking those first steps on an emotional journey to the summit of the mountain.
There are no mountains in Rain, just a rain-soaked city in which you -- an invisible boy -- are cast into and left to explore. In place of a sprawling environment are the narrow, flooded streets of a French-inspired town. But those same feelings of curiosity, desperation, and hope are flowing within the game. From dreamlike tune of Clair de Lune to the calming notes of raindrops falling, Rain definitely has more of a tanquil, meloncholy approach. But as I discovered while playing, even the dreariest of cities -- and stories -- have a sense of beauty to them.
That beauty is not only displayed through the unique art style of PlayStation C.A.M.P., but is expressed through the touching story of a young boy and girl who are both trapped in this strange world and must work together to escape it. In an effort to avoid spoilers I won't tell you why they are there, only that it's an emotional story that evokes feelings of meloncholy and nostalgia while simultaneously offering glimmers of hope as you curiously explore this intriguing world.
Rain's gameplay is largely centered on the concept that the very title suggests. As an invisible boy, the rain creates a silhouette for the characters within this world. Through the droplets, you can make out the outline of your character and the various other inhabitants. This is also the core mechanic for navigating through the world; it all builds upon this very simple concept and gameplay expands as more elements are introduced to you.
The game is largely passive in the sense that you have no way to defend yourself from the creatures you encounter. So instead, your only defense hiding, essentially using the cover from rain to prevent water from revealing your character. As you progress, the game slowly introduces new ways to stay dry and hidden, but also throwing in new obstacles, like mud that reveals you.
In the grand scheme of things, Rain can be viewed as a giant escort mission as you and the invisible girl eventually do meet up and work together to solve puzzles in order to escape. Along with this clever gameplay comes the fact that escort gameplay can drag at times as you wait for the AI to perform its task. While the AI of the invisible girl is fairly smart, there is some downtime as you wait for her to catch up.
While creative, puzzles are far from challenging -- and I'm not even a puzzle gamer. This could very well be a testament to how good of a job the game does in introducing new elements and setting up the puzzles, but I'm leaning more toward the side of them just not being very difficult. Remember, this is a game in which the story is the driving force; PlayStation C.A.M.P. doesn't want you to spend too much time stuck on puzzles. This is clearly evident by the hints so readily available upon failing a challenge once or twice.
Some may view this as a negative, but one of my biggest gripes with games -- especially ones primarily driven by story -- is that too much time is spent on the action, often detracting from the beautifully crafted narrative. Rain is the rare example in which gameplay does not detract from story and vice versa. Completing an area of puzzles doesn't take too long, but still leaves you with a rewarding feeling as you progress to the next area and learn more of this intriguing world you are trying to escape from.
I keep mentioning escape, a fairly urgent word for such a seemingly slow-paced game. That's because you are escaping, not just from the world, but from an evil creature known only as The Unknown as he endlessly hunts you and the invisible girl. He creates the sense of urgency throughout the game as his ever presence creates a constant fear in the back of your mind. Being touched by him, or any enemy for that matter, will result in immediate death. Fortunately, death in Rain means very little as you respawn at the nearest checkpoint (which saves quite frequently). In theory, The Unknown is supposed to evoke a feeling of fear within you, but realistically there's little to fear knowing a death will result in very little consequence.
When it's all said and done, though, story is Rain's strong suit. To that end, PlayStation C.A.M.P. does a fantastic job getting and keeping you hooked as the primary driving force is learning more about this world, its inhabitants, and why you are there. What's more astonishing is just how well this story is conveyed through elements other than spoken dialogue. Rain is told solely through text that pops up as your progress through the world and its emotion is heightened through the wonderfully orchestrated soundtrack from musical composer Yugo Kanno that is sure to leave a lasting impact.
Rain is beautiful. It's emotional. It's touching. It's a shining example of how games can be more than just blockbuster action shooters -- they can be art. Heading into the next generation of gaming Sony has continued to emphasize this exact point, and Rain is a captures this essence perfectly. The video game industry needs more games like this.