Set in an unknown French town, Rain gives the player no weapons, no special abilities and what is actually a fairly physically weak boy to control. In fact, the only thing that makes the boy special is the same thing that currently has him on the run from a ghostly fiend known as the “Unknown” and an odd assortment of similarly ghostly beasts.
While sitting in his room during a downpour outside, the boy spots the outline of a girl in the rain being chased by the Unknown. He follows them outside and then through a large doorway only to find himself invisible. It turns out the Unknown and the girl are invisible as well and the only way to be seen is while standing in the rain or maybe walking through muddy water.
And thus, a game of platforming hide-and-seek is born as the boy attempts to chase after the similarly invisible girl while avoiding the ethereal beings blocking his path. While standing in the rain makes the boy and girl visible, parking under overhangs or going inside makes it so they can’t be seen even by the player controlling them. The only thing that can be seen is their footsteps as they kick up dust or step through a puddle of water or bump into objects in the world littering the ground.
This creates a situation where there is still a certain amount of apprehension even though the character is “safe.” The player trades safety for a degree of uncertainty over where exactly the character is on screen.
What’s most interesting about Rain is that the puzzles are clever but not particularly difficult. Death may occur a couple of times while trying to figure out the timing of enemy creature movements but questions like where to move the boy next and what item to push or pull are readily apparent. The camera is always framed perfectly to see everything that is relevant during that section of gameplay. The player will only be forced to back track a couple of times and a help system is a “Select” button away on the controller if the character stands around too long.
Additionally, some of these clever gameplay mechanics are introduced and then not expanded on. For example, giraffe-like creature provide moving cover for the boy past the dog-like beasts a couple of chapters into the game but then they are never utilized again.
Despite this, the atmosphere of the game is genuinely tense as the creepy Unknown stalks the invisible boy and girl through a less mind-bending M.C. Escher-like world.
Technically, the game is nearly flawless with only maybe some input lag affecting certain sections. The player animations are a delight in spite of the game’s somber tone as simple gestures, nods of the head and struggles while climbing or jumping convey so much more than words.
It should take only a few hours to get through Rain’s eight chapters and players can always replay the levels to find “memories” hidden throughout. It’s a tough call playing it again though as the charmingly melancholy tone of the game seemingly dissipates on a subsequent play-through.
The boundaries between what is art and what is game have constantly been pushed and pulled during this generation and Rain is the latest salvo that blurs the line between the two. Rain’s captivating melancholy story, characters and mood make it a title to be played even if only once. It should join the ranks of ICO and Journey of Playstation exclusives that tests the limits of what is a game.
- Lovely story with arthouse sensibilities
- Somber, beautiful world with wonderfully animated characters
- Clever gameplay mechanics that give a much needed break from guns, swords and super powers
- Puzzles are never particularly challenging
- Some puzzle mechanics are introduced only to never be seen again
- Replayability is limited to hunting memories
Platform(s): Playstation 3 (PSN)
Developer: Playstation C.A.M.P.
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Release Date: Oct. 1, 2013
A review code was provided by Sony Computer Entertainment for the purposes of this review.