Sony’s efforts to experiment with new ideas, specifically with downloadable games, have allowed it to branch out from tradition in some remarkable ways. Rain, the new game from the grand experiment known as PlayStation C.A.M.P, comes from the team behind echochrome and the recent Tokyo Jungle. It follows the same mold as those games in an attempt to create something new out of something familiar. While Rain, unlike previous efforts under that brand, is more about presenting an atmospheric story, it still introduces some compelling (and unusual) mechanics, which hook you right from the start.
The story follows a young boy, lost in a downpour after seeing a girl’s silhouette, who is turned invisible and only able to be seen in the rain. He left to fend for himself in a familiar world inhabited by the unfamiliar. This is a basic tale, one that might not stick with you long after you finish the game, but the way it presents the bond formed between the two characters, the boy and girl, is handled exceptionally well. The score, which features original songs as well as new arrangements of the classic Clair de Lune, is the cherry on top of this otherwise-straightforward story.
The central mechanic is focused on the boy’s invisibility and how, when not standing in the rain, he is unable to be seen. Along your travels, you’ll encounter mysterious creatures determined to kill the boy (along with the girl he is so desperate to find), so avoiding them while making your way through the city is the core of the experience. These creatures range from tiny, bug-like blobs to giant, lumbering beasts, all focused on finding the two children. While you will quickly learn the patterns of each creature, the situations you are thrown into make each confrontation feel just different enough.
As such, the puzzles all revolve around avoiding the creatures while trying to find a pathway to the next area. You will quickly learn that while you can remain unseen by standing in dry areas, so can the creatures, making some situations more difficult than others. You will need to learn to distract them with environmental objects or by carrying something, such a doll, to show your position and lead them away from where you’re headed. The puzzles aren’t the most difficult, but they remain fresh throughout, always providing you with compelling obstacles to overcome.
While the mechanics remain relatively simple, there is plenty of opportunity to expand on them. Unfortunately, these opportunities are never taken, and the game feels lacking in areas where certain puzzles could be improved or, at the very least, drawn out. The mechanics themselves are excellent; I wish they were utilized more and allowed for even more experimentation. Exploration is also unfortunately limited, keeping you on a set path most of the time and giving you little reason (or opportunity) to venture too far. When you finish the game, you are given a chance to play a second time and find collectible “memories,” providing more back story for the characters, but Rain never feels like a game that needs to be played twice.
This is, however, not a game about puzzles or exploration as much as the atmosphere and story at the heart of it all. The two kids never say a word to each other, at least none that the player is able to hear, yet their bond is made all the more real by their desire to return to their homes and escape the foul creatures pursuing them. While the connection to the overarching story is tenuous at best, the two characters, even with the seemingly non-existent dialogue, are worth caring about.
Like previous games under the PlayStation C.A.M.P label, Rain is a grand experiment with a specific focus on atmospheric design and storytelling. It doesn’t do anything revolutionary or set out to tell a groundbreaking story, yet it manages to perfectly capture a picture of two interesting characters and set them in a mysterious world. The mechanics are great, albeit underutilized, and the linearity doesn’t do the game any favors, yet by the time the credits rolled I felt connected to the world Rain presented. If nothing else, it’s a refreshing journey that will leave you intrigued, if not satisfied, with what it has to offer.
Pros: Intriguing story, excellent atmosphere, solid base mechanics and puzzles
Cons: Mechanics are underutilized at times, not enough opportunities to explore