These days, it’s not too hard to release a console game that gets noticed. Anything that doesn’t involve copious amounts of killing or that isn’t the umpteenth instalment in a franchise is bound to get attention. That said, a different game doesn’t necessarily make a good game.
Such is the case with Rain, in which players take on the role of a boy who is rendered invisible after entering a mysterious, mystical portal. In this quirky downloadable title for the PS3 from PlayStation CAMP, the player character can only be seen when he’s caught in the titular rain, which is fortunately prevalent in this gloomy and sometimes creepy stealth platformer.
The boy, we learn, has been sucked into a dark parallel world that closely resembles a non-descript European city, complete with cobblestones and cathedrals. The night-time streets are deserted, save for the phantasmic apparitions on the prowl in search of the boy and a girl, who appears to be the only other soul in this world.
Much of the game focuses on the boy pursuing the girl for reasons not entirely explained. There is no dialogue, only textual narrative that once in a while describes what is happening. Both children are being chased by a tall monstrous apparition referred to only as the Unknown. Like the Terminator, it can only be slowed, but not stopped – drop a concrete block on its head and it will get up; dunk it in a river and it will recover. It also has backup in the form of hound-like ghost monsters, as well the occasional rhino-like charger.
Slow, moody piano riffs combine with the lack of dialogue, the dark, rainy environs and the creepy opponents to create a sombre and foreboding world. Rain succeeds at creating an evocative environment, but when it comes to story and action the game starts to lose its way.
The gameplay itself is old-school stealth platforming, with some tricks pulled in from countless similar games. In the earliest stages, the boy must run from one balcony overhang to another to maintain his invisibility while the ghost hounds search for him. If he’s spotted while visible in the rain, they pounce on him.
The puzzles get more complex as the game continues. Eventually, the boy has to sneak under the belly of a bigger monster in order to take shelter from the revealing precipitation, for example, or he must use phonographs and stuffed animals to distract his pursuers.
The puzzles in this short game – it can be completed in a handful of hours – are almost never challenging. The way forward is usually obvious, with necessary objects or destinations glowing brightly, and even if you get caught by the Unknown and its henchman it has no real repercussions; you simply have to try a section again. Fail a few times and the game will literally tell you how to pass.
The characters also aren’t particularly interesting, since we learn virtually nothing about them. The boy pursues the girl for unknown reasons, other than perhaps because that’s what young boys supposedly do. In truth, it’s a little creepy. By the game’s conclusion, I really couldn’t remember why it was important to meet up with the girl or escape the Unknown. The emotional investment that the developers were hoping to generate with the moody tone just never materialized for me.
Rain looks like it strives to be a high-minded indie release akin to The Unfinished Swan or Journey, but it doesn’t measure up to those titles on either the artistic or gameplay level. Its environment is definitely different, but its story isn’t compelling nor is the action all that exciting.
It’s worth a look in a field overpopulated with sameness, but unfortunately it’s a game that fails to capitalize on its own differentiation.