All the earmarks of the offbeat downloadable darling are present and correct in Rain. There’s the interesting new mechanic: you’re an invisible boy who can be seen only when raindrops fall on you. There are the precipitating Parisian streets you find yourself on, dotted with Art Deco flyers for Casablanca and the Circus. There’s a disarmingly calming Debussy soundtrack, and chapters concluded by the word ‘Fin.’ Better wheel out the old editor’s choice, call it an ‘inventive marvel’ and send it on its way then, eh?
Alas, Rain’s presentation, though incredibly soothing, isn’t really backed up by the kind of innovative systems you’d expect from a Sony Japan title. The game shows its hand in the first chapter, in which you walk the streets in spectral form, nailing jump puzzles framed with Resi 2’s camera angles. Pop under an awning and you’ve invisible but for your footprints and the street detritus you knock around. Handy, since there are ravenous bone-ghouls lurking at every Rue and Boulevard.
Soon you’re playing hide-and-seek, dashing from cover to cover like someone caught wearing their fanciest suit in a shower. If the suit was made of a material that murdered you when it got wet. Chief among the ghouls is The Unknown, a humanoid with a distinctly unpleasant extended finger he uses to point at where he’s looking. He’s hot in pursuit through each of the game’s chapters, intermittently appearing to stir Jurassic Park-esque ‘don’t move and he can’t see you’ levels of anxiety.
Deep down it’s all about a girl, of course. She’s the only other friendly face in a world otherwise abandoned by people, and while there’s an element of the damsel in distress about her early appearances – always tantalisingly out of reach – once you’re united she helps you out as much as you do her. As much as anyone can help in a world populated only with platforms and occasional moving blocks, anyway.
Without substantial gameplay, you’re
left with Rain’s atmosphere. And that in
itself’s enough to win over a listless
gamer for a quiet afternoon’s adventure
There are tightly wound chases involving the two of you and your old friend The Unknown, and some likeable watercolour cut-scene exposition, but Rain doesn’t truly have the ideas to make its invisible, two-strong cast and constant pursuit really gel. Too often you’re left cold by the prospect of climbing up and down ladders and inching boxes to and fro to progress.
Without substantial gameplay, you’re left with Rain’s atmosphere. And that in itself’s enough to win over a listless gamer for a quiet afternoon’s adventure. Through its level design it makes you feel suitably lost and vulnerable, and despite the cardinal sin of presenting itself like early 20th century French cinema it doesn’t come across as pretentious. A curiosity that rewards, but shouldn’t be showered with praise. There are fewer new ideas in here than it seems in the opening level, but pace-changing pursuits and a dreamy Debussy vibe mean it’s still well worth playing.
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