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September has passed, and October is upon us. That means it’s time for developers and publishers around the world to load up their cannons and bombard us with some snazzy new interactive funshows. Typically, this time of year is crazy enough with blockbuster AAA releases, but the ever-looming arrival of the Xbox One and PS4 have only assured we’ll leave 2013 a little less sane. In these times it’s easy to overlook the many downloadable and indie games trying to find a home during the holiday helter-skelter. Sony C.A.M.P. — the team behind Tokyo Jungle and Echochrome — recently released one such title. It goes by the name of rain.
Rain is a simple game. A young boy and girl have inexplicably turned invisible and are being chased across a rainy moonlit city by strange creatures. There really isn’t much more beyond the fact the young duo are just trying to figure out what’s going on and how they can get things back to normal. This minimalist tale isn’t treading new ground by any means, but it’s endearing nonetheless.
The crux of the gameplay comes from the sheer fact that all the characters are invisible. While the rain will illuminate enemies, it will also do the same for you, and considering you have no means to fight back, it’s often best to stick to cover. The sort of puzzles this mechanic creates are rather simple, and not once did I get stuck on any one section for very long, even when the lackluster platforming was thrown in. But it’s not that the controls for jumping about are poor. Oh, no.It’s the choice in camera angles that can be your bane.
Rain does not posses a user-controlled camera, or even your average auto-fixed one. Rather, the developers opted for a more cinematic approach. Wide and sweeping shots are common place, and while this can help set the mood, navigating becomes a right pain in the ass. Several times I would be walking a narrow path and fall off, or attempt to make a jump and miss by a mile, due to the terrible depth perception. As I mentioned earlier, this didn't cause the game to be overly challenging. But when I die, I prefer it not to be caused by a deficiency on the game’s end. I want my death to be my fault.
Bad camera angles aside, I did find much about the gameplay enjoyable. Sneaking from cover to cover and luring the creatures of the night into traps was more than a gimmick. New types of puzzles and situations always arise, so there was never a time I felt like I was repeating the same task twice. There were plenty of tense moments, too. Being chased by The Unknown — whose visual design is particularly noteworthy — was a real treat. In fact, many of the creature designs are interesting, but it's a shame none of them get fleshed out.
As with any game which clearly aims for the player’s heart, you’d expect rain to have some sort of emotional punch to it. Yet, there were few moments where I felt a shiver go down my spine or a dumbfounded look come over my face. Things play out like a child’s fantasy, and while fitting, it isn’t conducive to an impactful narrative. Don’t get me wrong, there is a certain charm, but nothing really had a lasting impression on me. I certainly enjoyed the story told, the children were winsome, and a few moments did their jobs properly. But, sadly, there is no real payoff at the end. The ending just sort of happens, and that's that.
Visually, rain is dated. Animations and textures look like they’re from early this generation. I however, am a firm believer that art style and atmosphere trumps any sort of graphical prowess. What I suspect to be a 1930’s French city feels and looks exactly as it should. The spot-on architecture is backed by a moody, French-noir atmosphere. The audio stands in support, with the constant beating down of raindrops set to subtle — but highly thematic — music.
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