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  1. Jason Clement

    Review: Rain

    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. Pros + Narrative and plot keep you interested and hooked throughout + Interesting visuals, nice effects with the rain and invisibility + Music is well done Cons - Not particularly challenging - Short experience (3 hours or so) Overall Score: 8.5 (out of 10) Great 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.
  2. Leah

    Review: Tokyo Jungle

    Developer: PlayStation C.A.M.P., Crispy's, SCE Japan Studio Publisher: SCEA Platform: PSN Release Date: September 27, 2012 ESRB: T for Teen Man is gone. All that remains among the ruins of Tokyo are animals of every other species. They haven“t a care in the world about what has happened to human beings, though; the only thought they have on their minds is to survive and pass on their genes. The premise may sound incredibly simple, but there“s a lot more going on behind the scenes that makes Tokyo Jungle engrossing and addicting. Upon first starting out in Tokyo Jungle, you“re able to play as a cute, but vicious little Pomeranian or a dainty Sika deer. You“re thrown right into the action of survival mode (but not without having gone over the basics with the tutorial beforehand, of course), and your goal is to eat, mark your territory, breed, and survive as long as possible. But is that it? Quite the contrary. You also have a rather hefty amount of other animals to unlock and play as, as well as slowly figuring out the explanation for Tokyo“s current state through the game“s story mode. Survival mode is exactly what it sounds like - you travel throughout the different areas of Tokyo to eat and make babies. To keep things fresh and offer a chance to earn mega survival points (which are used to purchase new animals and clothing), there are also randomized challenges to partake in. These challenges include some things as simple as making your way to a specific area or performing a number of clean/stealth kills. Challenges that unlock animals specifically ask for killing an animal boss or claiming the territory of that animal. And in order to progress through Tokyo Jungle“s story mode, you“ll need to collect the scattered archives in survival mode. However, Mother Nature isn“t going to be holding back any of her punches here. As a beginner, you“ll probably die within the first ten years – most likely from something like a wolf or toxicity. The difficulty may turn a lot of people off of continuing with Tokyo Jungle. Who could blame them? The toxicity factor is ruthlessly unfair, with seemingly every area always polluted and all food sources you come across having become tainted. Many times, you“ll be up against hordes of lions or other terrifying foes (and I mean hordes). With absolutely no way to go against them all, your deer will be running for dear life, which means missing out on nice food opportunities and marking territories. That“s just the beginning of how cruel Tokyo Jungle can be. But if you find the game enjoyable, you“ll learn to deal with all of that and learn to combat it. It can be excruciatingly tough at first, but I promise you“ll learn the ropes of the game. Mastering stealth and combat, planning out your routes and how you“ll tackle challenges, and memorizing shortcuts and water locations will get you to 100+ years in no time. It“s at this point that the difficulty becomes sickeningly satisfying. However, after 100 years, Tokyo Jungle really does want you to just die already. If you“re playing as a carnivore, all your food sources have been replaced by a powerful foe (I won“t spoil what it is for you!) that cannot be eaten. And like the lion packs, there are tons of these guys. Unless you go underground (and that“s impossible for some large creatures like the elephant), you“re guaranteed to be running away from them all the time. Herbivores encounter the same trouble from said enemy, so they're unable to graze often even if there are plants available. How unfortunate that our fun has to end at a measly 100-something years, in any case. With 40 animals to play as, plus 12 DLC animals, you“ll spend countless hours in survival mode with a different experience in each playthrough. Each animal really does feel unique, and not just a reskin of some sort (for example, the Thoroughbred versus the zebra). And even though you can get different colors for cats, lions, and so on, the stats between those can also have slight differences. Nonetheless, it“s an exhilarating feeling to progress up the food chain as you unlock more and more animals (for the most part, each animal unlocks one new animal – like a chain). Getting to finally unlock the grizzly bear and mauling everything in sight is simply awesome. It makes you wish that the selection of animals was even larger (and had included some of my favorite animals, such as the Fennec fox and red panda)! The clothing and equipment you“re able to dress your animal up in only adds to that. There“s a bunch of different clothing items to collect, such as a cute school girl uniform set and a tough guard dog set. These aren“t just for appearance, either – they also provide precious stat bonuses to your creature. There are even items with special effects that can help you out immensely. Clothing such as the trash bag will eliminate the poisoning your animal receives when eating tainted food and water. Although these special clothing items are rare and difficult to get, it“s worth the effort when it comes to surviving in Tokyo Jungle. Survival mode is immense fun—the most fun I“ve had in ages, in fact. But what about story mode? Does it offer comparable entertainment? Not really (the stealth sections can be quite annoying), but it“s worth going through just to find out why Tokyo is in its current state and why all the humans are gone. Not only that, but you get a deeper look into the lives of the animals – such as the territorial war between the Tosa dogs and the beagles. And when you finally do get to the last story episode and succeed in attaining the true ending, what occurs is quite touching and bittersweet. The story mode definitely could have used some fine-tuning, but it“s an admirable piece of work for the type of game Tokyo Jungle is. Tokyo Jungle is a must-buy for anybody even slightly interested in its premise. Playing as an animal in a video game is always great fun, especially with how much we“re used to playing as bald space marines and macho tough guys lately. Moreover, Tokyo Jungle provides a surprisingly large and diverse selection of creatures that are all exciting to control and make that very concept even better. With how expansive, random, and amusing the game“s survival mode can be, Tokyo Jungle will provide you with hours upon hours of game time and comical (or dramatic!) stories to tell. In fact, it“s taken me at least a week of heavy playing to unlock almost everything and achieve all of the trophies. It“s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and Tokyo Jungle is one of those unique little gems that you should definitely play before you die. Pros: + A whopping 40 animals to play as (with 12 DLC animals set to release) that offer different play-styles and experiences + Survival mode is addicting and randomized enough to have you playing over and over again + Large amount of clothing that not only makes your animal adorable or menacing in appearance, but useful in regards to stats or special effects Cons: - Game can be mercilessly unfair and feel artificially difficult with factors such as toxicity - Story mode could use some refinement and its stealth sections are especially annoying Overall Score: 9 (out of 10) Fantastic Tokyo Jungle is just as brilliant as it looks. You“ll spend countless hours as a variety of different animals either eating or being eaten. And though it“s challenging, it can be addicting and satisfying.