rain Review

rainrain (Available exclusively on PlayStation 3)
ESRB Rating: E10+
Number of Players: 1
Genre: Action Adventure
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: SCE Japan Studio
Release Date: October 1st, 2013

Parent Talk: rain is touching, sad, yet beautiful all at the same time. Children might be put off by some of the enemies that chase after you while, but there’s nothing overly violent or gory about the game as a whole. Young children will most likely not enjoy the feeling of isolation, and anyone over 10 should be perfectly fine.

Plays Like: rain is an action adventure game that tries to do something new. For the first few stages you’re trying to make your way to a little girl, always one step away from you no matter how close you get. While in the rain your playable character (a little boy) is visible, to both you the player, and to the various creatures that roam the land. If they touch you, it’s game over. The trick is to make use of your environments wisely. If an enemy can see you in the rain, then be sure to hide under sections of the street that have an awning so the rain doesn’t touch you. The goal is to make your way to the next section of the stage without being swallowed by the darkness. It sounds easy, but it gets complex fast. After the third level the game switches gears and plays more like ICO, where you have to work together with the little girl in order to overcome enemies, and other obstacles as you make your way to the stage’s exit.

Review Basis: Sony sent us a review code, and I completed the game.

Sony has made real strides this generation with their digital download service. What started off rather simple, has blossomed into a platform with some of the very best games available. From Super Stardust HD and Guacamelee!, to Journey and The Unfinished Swan, the PlayStation Network is home to a wide variety of AAA titles. With all that quality, releasing a new original IP can be tough, what with it being easily overshadowed by its peers. Sony has a lot of faith in rain and for good reason, it feels incredibly unique, looks great, and has solid gameplay.

rain5The Great:

An incredibly unique world. It often feels like a mixture of ICO and Limbo, because of the setting and overall gameplay. rain takes place in a world that is constantly raining. The only way to see yourself is to walk into the open, and let the rain fall down on you. The problem is monsters can also see you when you’re standing in the rain. In order to bypass them, you need to walk underneath awnings, roofs, or any other area where the rain can’t hit you. Throw in puzzles based around this gameplay mechanic, and a stunning visual style and you have yourself one heck of a creative videogame.

The feeling the game puts off is also impressive. Do you remember being extremely young and walking into a dark basement? Remember that feeling of isolation or dread that slowly crept up inside you? That’s exactly what this game does, it makes you feel like a child who’s trapped in a familiar setting, that’s teeming with dark and strange creatures.

rain4The Good:

+ Excellent difficulty progression. While the first few stages are extremely simple, mainly acting as a large tutorial, eventually you’re forced to use quick thinking, and multiple skills at the same time. That includes making sure you don’t step in mud, hiding from the rain, pushing blocks so you can reach safe zones and much, much more. Oh and you need to do this all while being chased by the Unknown, a large hulking beast that shares a few resemblances to a teacher, which ties into the feeling of making players feel like children.

+ Gameplay really shines once you hit the forth stage. That’s when you have access to a second character, and much like ICO before it, you have to help each other in order to solve puzzles, and escape enemies. This can include moving a ladder so one character can climb to a higher level, or waiting for your partner to sneak by enemies so you can quietly get by afterwards. Things get really interesting when several mechanics are thrown into the mix while enemies are chasing you both down.

+ Nerve-wracking at times. You might not believe it, but this game can be more creepy than even the scariest Resident Evil game, and that’s because there are several monsters that will follow you wherever you go, and you only have a finite amount of time to solve the puzzle before you and your partner get consumed by darkness.

+ While the eight levels can be completed in around three to four hours, maybe less if you use the hint system, upon finishing the game you can revisit each chapter to try and locate memories.

+ Level and art design are excellent. The way the rain interacts with both kids is wonderful to look at. Rain drips from their silhouettes, there are wet footprints which show which direction you’re walking in when not in the rain, and the overall environments are extremely polished. The way the narrative is presented is superbly stylized. This is one fine-looking videogame.

+ The audio is also very impressive. While there’s no spoken dialogue, the ambient noise is enough to calm you down during thought-provoking puzzles, or drive you up the wall when a giant monster is right on your tail. Composer Yugo Kanno and singer Connie Talbot have crafted an excellent soundtrack to accompany the sound effects. The tracks are somber, sad, and delightful, which fit the mood of each scene perfectly. There’s a lot of piano work here that’s especially memorable.

rain3The So-So:

+/- It can be a little hard to see exactly where you’re going when multiple mechanics are thrown at you at once. For example there are sections of the game where you need to use moving cover in order to hide from enemies all around you. One false step and it’s game over because you’ll be spotted within a second. The problem is that the moving cover doesn’t highlight your wet prints making it extremely difficult to tell if you’re going to overshoot your cover or not. It’s not mechanic that’s used too often, but when it is, it can be problematic.

+/- Some really intelligent gameplay mechanics like the one mentioned above are only featured in one stage in the entire game. While most will be further expanded as the game progress, there are a few puzzle elements that are slowly introduced just for the sake of having them at one particular point in time, and then never used again.

+/- Fixed camera angles are also problematic over time. 90% of the time they work perfectly and offer some stunning views of the action, but the other 10% twist and turn or cut too soon and will cause you to either run off a roof, or walk directly into an enemy you didn’t even know was there.

rain1The Bad:

– Hand-holding to the extreme. Die three times and the solution is presented to you. Wait around for a few minutes and the same thing happens. Sure you don’t have to hit the ‘Select’ button, but the fact that the solution shows up so quickly is annoying. It encourages people to simply ‘cheat’ their way through the game instead of using their brain to try and figure out the solutions for themselves. Sadly the hints cannot be turned off.

The Ugly:

You will learn to hate the Unknown monster. He clearly represents a teacher, as he sticks his finger out scanning for your footsteps, and it reminds me of a teacher scolding a kid in class with their finger. If he spots you he’s almost impossible to lose, and will surely catch up to you. It makes for some truly intense moments, and if someone like Steven were to play this, you’d hear his screams miles away.

rain2The Lowdown:

rain is a very refreshing game. While it has a few problems that keep it from achieving the same milestones that some of the other big heavy hitters on the PSN have, it’s originality help make it a title you should check out. The biggest problem is clearly the hint system, and the fact certain gameplay elements don’t seem to evolve over time, but the environments, the soundtrack, and feeling of isolation all come together to make rain a truly unique experience. If you enjoyed ICO or are simply looking for something a bit different, you can’t go wrong with rain.

Final Score: 7.5/10

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