Cold, depressing and lethargy-inducing, rain generally puts a dampener on things and is best avoided altogether. Not so in Rain. Here, it is the driving force of a visually-haunting and poetic platformer that tells the story of an invisible boy revealed only by its presence. Within the downpour, mystery and adventure also reside.
As it did with last year’s Tokyo Jungle, SCE Japan's C.A.M.P studio has taken an unusual premise and stretched it, throwing players into an intriguing world just begging to be explored.
This time there is a richly-stylised town to discover that is vaguely French-inspired and whimsical; a stark contrast to the harsh and decaying Japan of Tokyo Jungle.
The storytelling has taken a huge leap too. Rain favours a storybook style and has a simple flow that engages players until the last drop hits the cobblestones.
It all begins with a little boy contemplating the rain from his bed, who is startled from his reverie when he sees the silhouette of a girl run past his window.
Wonder turns to fear as he sees what is stalking the girl – a hulking horror made visible only by the downpour. Leaping from his bed, he braves the storm to rescue the girl from her ghastly, ghostly pursuer.
This act of kindness turns the boy invisible as well, and the nameless child soon learns he can only be seen when in the rain. That sets up the game’s mix of stealth and platforming, and encourages players to run from cover to cover to avoid being seen by the many vicious creatures hunting the girl.
The basic platforming and pathfinding here initially seems dull until the introduction of an enemy called the Unknown, which will terrify players into forgetting the boring mechanics. Regardless of prior exposure, every game over in Rain is as unnerving as every death in Limbo, and this alone will have players moving particularly cautiously.
Fortunately, new mechanics are introduced in each new chapter too, as the boy and girl desperately flee through the abandoned streets, factories, and churches that adorn the game’s watercolour landscape. Blocks are moved, ladders climbed, lockers hidden in, and noises made to distract the Unknown and evade their sight.
The Unknown are relentless, and during every brief respite spent playing in the streets full of mud and puddles – kicking over empty wine bottles and general horsing around as children do – there comes an ominous bellow. Heartbeats and footfalls will quicken again and again.
Rain may not challenge players, but it will not hesitate to make them feel until the very end. It is a game that will be remembered not for its gameplay but instead for its premise, execution, and lovingly detailed world. It’s a game rich in metaphor that is sadly over all too soon.
However, for its stay, Rain never fails to strike the right chords, and will leave players contemplating its gloomy, heartbreaking atmosphere from the warmth and safety of their beds on a cold wet night.