The upcoming downloadable game Rain isn’t content to just be another game – it strives to be art, by telling a story that is emotionally driven. Whether it works or not is something that remains to be seen, but in our hands-on preview, Rain shows the potential to be something special – or at least unique.
Story & Concept
Rainy Days. The last time we played Rain, our preview was brief, little more than a glimpse at what to expect but not enough to get a real taste of it. Our recent extended play covered the first three chapters, but that only expanded rather than informed what we knew. There is still a lot to learn.
You control “the boy,” who finds himself invisible after coming across a similarly invisible girl on the run from enigmatic beasts. Once the boy begins to follow her through a generic town with a classic European look, he too becomes a target of the creatures, as he attempts to connect with the girl. Beyond that, the story is a mystery that you solve as you play.
Straight ahead. Rain is a linear game – to the extreme. Your path is always laid out for you, and there is generally only one direction for you to move. That may include climbing and jumping, but knowing where to go is rarely an issue – as long as you can see where you are going. The game’s primary hook also becomes its defining gameplay characteristic.
The protagonist throughout the game is invisible, as are the girl you are chasing and the enemies you will face. As the title suggests, the rain drenching the town becomes a major factor. Stepping out into the pouring water creates a silhouette, while stepping under cover renders you completely invisible. Moving is then represented by wet footprints, or a slight cloud with each step in dry areas. Stepping in muddy puddles also makes your feet visible, while washing them off in a puddle can also create a sound that attracts enemies. Sometimes the invisibility can be an issue, and it is easy to lose your avatar in dry areas, but the linear pathways limit where you can go so you’ll rarely be lost for long.
Wetwork. While platforming makes up a major part of the game, stealth is also essential to survival. The boy has no weapons or special abilities beyond his invisibility. If he is caught by the enemies, he will instantly be killed, so learning the patterns of the enemies and looking for places to hide is crucial. The type of enemy changes as well, which forces you to alter your tactics. The common dog-like enemies move in predictable patterns and can see and hear you if you are visible in the rain, or make too much noise in puddles. Large beasts the size of elephants provide a place for you to take shelter from the rain; and as long as you stick with their movement, you can use them to remain invisible. The toughest foe in the early chapters, however, is the “unknown,” which stalks you through the levels and will force you to flee.
Run. While stealth and platforming make up a big chunk of the gameplay in the early chapters, so too does running for your life. Occasionally you will need to lure enemies in certain directions then dodge out of the way to have them crash into something to create a new pathway for you. But there are also several sections when the unknown will be right behind you and your only recourse is to run for it. The different playstyles blend well together. The linear nature of the game limits your options, and you’ll always know what you need to do, but the game has a plan.
The story begins… As you can tell, Rain’s gameplay is fairly limited, which creates the impression that you are meant to experience the game rather than play it in a traditional fashion. In essence, Rain is an interactive story book, about a boy chasing a girl while surviving monsters. From the moment you begin the game and you run through the rain soaked streets, while Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” plays, the sense of melancholy is present. The unnamed “European” town is bathed in moonlight. A rotation of down-tempo, piano-centric songs make up the soundtrack. The unseen boy and girl are silent – even her frequent, trembling sobs elude our ears. It all paints a more evocative picture than a standard platformer. The mystery of how the girl is invisible, what made the boy follow suit, and what the invisible enemies are told through bits of text that appear on walls or flat surfaces, as you progress.
It’s difficult to know exactly what Rain is, with such a bite-sized offering. The three chapters we can discuss are short – each between 20 and 30 minutes. They set the tone and atmosphere, however, as well as highlight the philosophy behind the gameplay. Rain is meant to be consumed as a complete package. The game is striving to be more than a general platformer, and gameplay feels secondary to the overall presentation. Check back with us before the game’s October release on the PlayStation 3 to see if it succeeds.