Rain Review

Developer: PlayStation C.A.M.P., Acquire, SCE Japan Studio | Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment | Platforms: PS3 | Release Date: October 1, 2013 | ESRB: Everyone 10+ [Fantasy Violence, Use of Tobacco]

Rain 01

Any screenshot of Rain can effectively convey its main draw: an exploration game where an invisible protagonist’s form is only revealed through water falling from the sky. What a screenshot won’t show is that Rain is also part rescue mission, part escort mission. It also features a dim quasi-European backdrop that sometimes feels gloomy, sometimes enchanting. How it manages to transition between the two moods is one of Rain’s strengths. It’s a concise game that echoes the fixed-camera adventures that were commonplace in many PS1 and PS2 adventures.

Introduced throughout a series of watercolor-styled cutscenes, a boy awakens to the commotion outside his bedroom window. Looking out, he sees a girl being pursued by a large, ominous figure. This young man is so compelled to find the girl he leaves the comforts of home and suffers the outside downpour without an umbrella.

The time it takes you to reach the girl is indicative of Rain’s solid pacing. It’s not the tiresome pursuit where you’re always one step behind right until the end. It only takes a few chapters to catch up with her, which then changes the tone of the game into a shared experience alongside the AI-controlled girl, as the evil presence now attempts to eliminate you both.

The main antagonist, dubbed The Unknown, chases you with the persistence and fervor of both the Terminator and the Nemesis from Resident Evil 3. You quickly discover how seemingly ineffective obstacles are to this predator, and you can only hope to hide or stay one screen ahead of it. Its club-like arm kills instantly without hesitation, much like many deaths in 8-bit games. But as prominent as this being is in the game, we never get to learn why this creature has a problem with humans.

Co-developer Acquire is the studio best known for the Tenchu ninja series, and they have incorporated a notable degree of stealth gameplay into Rain. Opposite of the showers that reveal the boy and the girl, any cover from the downpour makes them invisible. This creates a wealth of sneaking opportunities to move past even the most heavily guarded areas. You have to avoid most creatures, but a handful of them do need to be immobilized by using the environment against them. If you do find yourself in a heated pursuit, you learn to trust that you’ll eventually find a point of escape, provided you run at full speed the entire time.

Rain 02

Stopping and avoiding these hostilities are the cruxes of Rain’s puzzles. It’s key to consider the sensitivity of the PS3 analog stick when moving quietly through puddles. There are diversions and distractions to use to your advantage, like the sound of a hand-cranked record player or picking up a doll while staying invisible. You come across switches to hit and objects to slide in order to create new points of cover to stay out of the rain. None of the puzzles are hard or complex, resembling the level of difficulty in this summer’s Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.

Whether being pursued by The Unknown or the lesser creatures, these chases are effective in delivering tension that contrasts effectively with the game’s periodic moments of respite. Jogging through the constant downpour in one to three-minute uninterrupted stretches can feel surprisingly soothing. There’s beauty in solitude, especially in this kind of vacant city. This is enhanced by the game’s floating text exposition that consistently appears throughout Rain.

The European-inspired architecture is immensely charming despite the darkness cast on the entire city. The setting does go a bit askew in a later section, but even this odd location has the intriguing look of a manageable M.C. Escher labyrinth. These inviting designs are all the more complemented by the excellent soundtrack, anchored by a fitting solo piano rendition of ‘Clair de Lune’. While the rest of the compositions don’t achieve the same levels as Debussy’s classic, some of the tracks do share the same melancholic feel. If anything, some of these pieces could easily be mistaken as background music of villages and small towns in JRPGs. And without spoiling specific details, the game pulls off a risky, but ultimately well-executed reprise of ‘Clair de Lune.’

Through complementary presentation, pacing, and the ease of the puzzles, the game’s rain mechanic transcends gimmickry and effectively serves both the gameplay and the narrative. The bond between the boy and the girl, as well as the watercolor cutscenes that frame the story, are reasons enough to check out Rain. With Bioshock Infinite, Brothers, and The Last of Us in mind, Rain is helping make 2013 “The Year of The Companion,” signifying how the escort mission has come a long way.

Rain 03

+ Engrossing atmosphere

+ Great presentation

+ Inventive rain mechanic

+ Easy puzzles

- Inexplicably merciless enemy

9 / 10

 

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