Developer: PlayStation C.A.M.P.
Acquire, SCE Japan Studio
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Platform: PS3 (PSN only)
Release Date: October 1, 2013
ESRB: E 10+
A download code was provided by the publisher for this review
PlayStation C.A.M.P.'s Tokyo Jungle was one of last year's most unique and undeniably unorthodox titles, not only for its unique premise (survival of the fittest among animals in post-apocalyptic Japan) but its interesting game mechanics as well. Similarly, the developer's newest title, Rain, seeks to continue that same out-of-box thinking. Its premise is a bit similar to a Hudson Wii game from several years back called Lost In Shadow, but in this game, the protagonist is an invisible boy whose outline can only be seen in the falling rain. And, like Tokyo Jungle, it's an experience quite unlike anything else.
Rain begins with a somewhat lengthy prologue detailing the events that lead up to the protagonist's current circumstance. During the night, a boy witnesses an invisible girl being chased by a similarly invisible creature outside his window; their silhouettes being the only thing visible in the damp, pouring rain. Feeling a need to help the girl, the boy jumps out into the night after them, only to find as he is caught up in the chase that he too has become invisible. The antagonistic bipedal creature is revealed to the player as The Unknown, a being whose design is almost straight out of one of Tim Burton's many works. Overall, the plot revolves around uncovering the mystery of why The Unknown is chasing the girl (and eventually the boy) and why both children are invisible.
At its base, the game can be considered a puzzle platformer, but it's almost better described as a piece of interactive fiction, as the driving force behind the game is its narration and story. Right from the get-go, Rain's storybook intro (with its painterly images) segues into the endless rainy night, with words appearing on the walls and streets to narrate the events that are happening as you progress through different scenes. And like other smaller titles such as Papo & Yo and The Unfinished Swan, Rain is an extremely linear, guided experience, which means there is almost no room for exploration beyond what the game wants you to see in its story, save for some extras which I'll mention further on.
The gameplay itself is relegated to running, jumping, and occasionally interacting with an object. Much of the experience revolves around stealth and sneaking around to avoid being detected by different invisible creatures that are on the prowl. Seeing as the boy is only visible in the rain, you'll use this fact to your benefit by finding roofs, awnings, and other overhead protrusions that provide a dry shelter in order to stay invisible and undetectable to enemies. You'll also use the environment and objects around you to progress as well; the nice thing is that the game continually adds new mechanics into the mix with each new chapter to keep things interesting.
What starts out as a seemingly endless chase to catch up with the mysterious girl then becomes a more Ico-like experience once you do meet up at last. Together, you'll help each other overcome obstacles and challenges, and distract the invisible creatures from the other. There are some interesting visual devices that PlayStation C.A.M.P. introduces to ensure the player can always see where the boy and the girl are, from mud that sticks to their pant legs and only washes off upon stepping into a puddle of water, to smaller cues such as splashes in the water or small clouds of dust that are created when running in dry areas.
Some of the most interesting aspects about Rain to me are the mood it sets with its atmosphere and the themes it draws on during the narrative. Music in particular plays a huge role in setting the atmosphere. Claire de Lune serves as the game's main theme, beautiful and haunting at the same time, and serves to inspire the rest of the game's reflective, orchestral soundtrack, which is quite good. Much of the game instills a loneliness in you due to the streets being devoid of life, other than you, the girl, and the invisible creatures. Hopelessness, uncertainty, and fear are other interesting themes that are explored, especially toward the end as the mystery begins to unravel.
Not unlike Tokyo Jungle, Rain looks nice but isn't necessarily a graphical powerhouse; it doesn't push the PS3 in any noticeable way, and the invisible creatures' design (or outline, in this case) aren't all that inspired. Yet, like C.A.M.P.'s post-apocalyptic animal game, the dev team did some interesting work in researching and replicating the early 20th century look of the city's surroundings. Since the game is played with a fixed camera angle that pans slightly at certain points, there are a lot of different shots of the city; hundreds, if not thousands, and they all recreate a very authentic urban feel in the buildings, streets and cars. In this way, the art direction is supremely well done.
If there's one thing that I found disconcerting about Rain, it's that the story can be a bit complicated to follow, especially toward the end. Often it will get lost in metaphors and allegories, leaving you to wonder what is meant to be taken literally and what isn't. Even still, its climax recalls some of the powerful notes that games such as Journey, Papo & Yo, and The Unfinished Swan closed on. And even after the story is over, you'll be able to replay and find hidden "memories" that expand on the characters' backstory, giving the game some replay value. For all its worth, Rain is an interesting and engaging experience. At just over 3 hours, it's a little short, and it isn't necessarily challenging either, but its premise and plot make it one of the more unique titles that manages to stand out among the rest this Fall.
+ Narrative and plot keep you interested and hooked throughout
+ Interesting visuals, nice effects with the rain and invisibility
+ Music is well done
- Not particularly challenging
- Short experience (3 hours or so)
Overall Score: 8.5 (out of 10)
Rain is a very different type of game, but its unique premise and narrative lend itself well to what can be considered one of the year's most intriguing artsy game experiences.