Rightly or wrongly, Rain is one of those games that you’ll likely hear described as an ‘art game’.
If that sets you up to expect Rain to be the PS3’s next Journey, then you’re going to be disappointed.
Rain isn’t a bad game, but it is a game that fails to fulfill the potential inherent in what is an interesting conceit. As a result, the game you’re left with is one that is, save for some notable exceptions, little more than average.
Rain: Stealth, Puzzles and Platforming
Rain puts you in the shoes of a young boy who sets out to help a girl being chased by a strange, angular creature, referred to as the unknown.
The hook is that all these characters, as well as the various creatures you encounter throughout Rain’s four hour or so playthrough, are invisible and, therefore, can only be seen as silhouettes brought into view by the rain.
Rain uses this mechanic to set the player up with stealth puzzles, interspersed with bouts of simple platforming.
As Rain gradually introduces the player to the possibilities of the mechanic – teaching players how they can, for example, hide from patrolling monsters by taking cover from the elements and vanishing from view – there’s a sense that Rain is a game with ideas that could take the player to interesting places.
Unfortunately, in spite of its unique core mechanic, Rain somehow manages to end up as a puzzler that feels disappointingly by the numbers. At times, Rain even commits the cardinal sin of presenting the player with puzzles that are frustratingly trial and error.
That said, Rain is never a difficult puzzle game. That’s not a criticism, because it feels as if that was never the intention.
Despite its dark, muted tone, Rain relies on a slow but steady sense of progress and movement, whether that be in sections where the player is pursued by the unknown, or when progressing towards a goal with the game’s AI companion.
Indeed, despite Rain’s occasionally clunky, average at best platforming, there’s something oddly pleasurable about the simple act of moving through Rain’s world.
This is particularly true of latter sections of the game, where the player guides the protagonist through some visually interesting environments, weaving a way through the world in tandem with his young companion.
It is in those environments, in its sense of place, that Rain’s greatest strength lies. Despite being a Japanese game, Rain also holds a very European sensibility that is reflected both in the beautiful European town in which Rain takes place and in the game’s fantastic score.
Rain’s music always manages to reflect the tone of any particular moment, whether that means enhancing a sense of peril, or inspiring a sense of freedom and elation in the player.
It wouldn’t be quite right to say that Rain’s cobbled streets are a pleasure to move through, given the game’s overbearing tone, but nevertheless, there is something evocative about Rain’s haunting environments that lends the game an appeal that elevates it above the level suggested by it’s unremarkable gameplay.
Part of that appeal can also be attributed to Rain’s narrative. There is no dialogue from any of Rain’s characters. Instead short sentences appear in the world as the player progresses, either describing events that are taking place or telling us what the protagonist is thinking.
The lack of exposition in Rain’s sparse narrative helps to foster a sense of mystery that fits well with the tone of the game. Rain wants to leave events open to the players’ own interpretation and that’s a move that’s welcome.
Rain in Summary
It’s a shame that a game that is so strong in many departments is built on what is, at its core, a rather average and uninspiring stealth puzzle game.
Rain is a game with good ideas and for that reason it’s all the more disappointing that that it fails to live up to the promise contained within its core concept.
It’s fortunate then that Rain’s exceptional visual and audio design, haunting tone and sense of mystery combine to create an alluring world and, by extension, to make Rain a game that far more pleasurable to play than it would otherwise be.
Version Tested: PS3