Another creative, artsy PSN game, but is it all style over substance?
A little boy catches sight of the ethereal visage of a young girl in the rain, running from a similarly spirit-like but grotesque foe.He follows the pair through a strange doorway and ends up back in the unnamed city, but this time as invisible as the other figures, his form only highlighted by the rain beating down upon his frame.
It’s an Ico-like boy-meets-girl mystery of artistic design, orchestrated to tug at the heart-strings, offering an accessible experience thanks to the bare-bones controls and linear levels.You can evade the monsters by taking shelter from the downpour, thus erasing your visibly drenched outline. Your silhouette and noises are the indicators of your presence, once indoors or under cover your whereabouts will be determined by your feet hitting the puddles that pool on the floors, the wet footprints you leave behind or the objects you inadvertently clatter. Tables fall over, bins are easily knocked and bottles are strewn in abundance.
Simple SimonSound can also be an ally too, as the dog-like beasts pursuing you will react to noise, so it can be utilised to distract in order to clear a path, but beware, if you wade through a muddy puddle your lower legs will be highlighted and only further exposure to water will revert you to a stealthy status.
It’s a very minimalistic experience, the controls stretch to three face buttons - run, jump and a contextual interaction option. The latter allows you to crawl through small gaps, open doors, drop ladders, offer your ally a bunk up and move objects. The puzzle element to the game is built around evasion and protecting the mysterious girl, so finding a path, luring an enemy away from an area, then perhaps shifting a crate or two is a staple example. You’re not always in unison though, so there are occasions where she’ll return the favour as your paths cross one another in the labyrinthine city.
It’s a very minimalistic experience, the controls stretch to three face buttons
It’s only a complex environment in one section though, and even that is a case of manipulating camera angles to create an (albeit impressive) illusion. The majority of your time will be spent simply following a set route with minor explorable side turnings that lead to dead ends. This is linear story telling in every sense; options would only deviate from the single track of the haunting narrative. A fine ideal to pursue, which Rain almost pulls off, but how touching you find the tale depends on how willing you are to forego playing a game.
Oh what an atmosphere!Rain is all about atmosphere, the unnamed European city that’s devoid of anything beyond you, your new friend and the creatures that seek to do you harm. The slightly monochromatic aesthetic lends an air of melancholy, heightened by the sporadic and slow orchestral score that uses the odd note rather than playing a soundtrack to your actions. The setting is spartan, bereft of life but also things to find interest in, the mystery of the story and your attachment to your friend are what is designed to propel you deeper.
It’s strange then that, for a game that seems to take a leaf from previous Team Ico outings, there is no hand-holding option to enforce that bond. Those who wish to soak in the atmosphere will not mind dawdling, but the streets become quite monotonous and running often leaves your ally behind. Thankfully you’re not forced to wait in order to progress in terms of tying the pair of you into one screen, but when two bodies are necessary to move an item you’ll need to tarry until she catches up.
Games vs Art: Part 2As mentioned, if you play it as a game with a story it’s somewhat lacking, but if you view it more as a story with game elements attached it’s infinitely more appealing. Minimal music and lacking any dialogue furthers the sense of isolation in the strange environment, the lovingly created backdrops and the switching camera angles showcasing an artistic hand at work. The sense that you’re travelling into a maze is underlined by the narrative which sticks to themes of light and dark without seeking clarity.
Like a children’s picture book, it’s built on imagery, relies on simplistic chasing monsters and - because it’s designed to be finished by anyone - never taxing in the slightest. At around five hours, and with scarce replay value, it perfectly represents why so many modern, smaller titles are categorised as “experiences” first and foremost.
...if you play it as a game with a story it’s somewhat lacking...Wandering the lonely streets to the odd strain of Debussy, the rain pouring down, searching for an elusive girl’s silhouette in the distant cobbled streets is at once cinematic and abstract. Quite how much you take away from the journey depends on your frame of mind going into it, and just how receptive you are to the emotive set-up.
- Creative premise
- Subtle use of music
Rain, Rain, Go Away
- Excessively simplistic
Rain PS3 ReviewRain doesn’t quite hit the same high mark as the best examples of ally-based story-telling such as Ico or Journey. The artistic backdrops are intentionally devoid of life, but their spartan nature also highlights how little interaction and actual game there is on offer whilst the narrative creeps forward to its somewhat unsatisfactory ending.
If you break it down into its constituent parts it’s tough to see it as much of a game at all; failure isn’t harshly punished and is almost always likely to be brought about by obtuse camera angles rather than a lack of player ability. It’s an A-to-B linear affair that bets everything on the bewitching mood created. From the beautiful music to the haunting visuals, the sense of isolation throws you towards your newfound friend and headlong into the mystery.
It’s stripped back ambience-based gaming distilled into a short package; gameplay trumped by artistic aura, and it almost pulls it off.
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