The rain is dreary to some and beautiful to others. To many, it’s a reason to stay indoors and mill around the house, and to others it’s ripe for dancing in and reveling in what nature has wrought. Rain, a PlayStation exclusive, is similar in many ways. Some will find its loneliness and overwhelming gloom magnetic, and others will be repelled by the very aspects that make it unique. It should be praised for attempting a premise not often seen in gaming these days, but unfortunately it does not stand on its own as a tour de force that all who can appreciate alternative storytelling.
In Rain, players take up the mantle of an unfortunate young boy who can now only be seen in the pouring rain. The droplets cast a faint shadow that outlines the boy’s features, so in a torrential downpour he is somewhat visible, but the instant he exits a rainshower he becomes invisible. He wasn’t always this way — one day, he witnesses a girl painted by the rain on the run from another invisible beast. He goes after her, of course, with the intent to save her, but in turn suffers the same fate she has. The girl eventually disappears, but the boy’s desire to rescue her hasn’t diminished. Rain takes you through the dreary sleepiness of what looks to be an abandoned town, dodging these skeletal creatures and staying on the lookout for the unfortunate young girl. Maybe, just maybe, the boy will find that he’s regained his corporeal status in the process.
As you traverse the pan-European landscape, you’ll be tasked with investigating each area, avoiding the bizarre creatures on your tail and sing the environment to your advantage. It may look and sound like a peaceful experience, but as the game wears on it becomes anything but. The boy (as he is always referred to) is limited to how he can interact with the world around him. All he can do is run and jump, so you have to use the rain and his “disappearing act” to your advantage. If you come into contact with one of the creatures that initially chased down the girl from the beginning, it’s game over — you’re sent back to your previous checkpoint. You’re not allowed to touch them at all, which leads to some frustrating situations. The camera remains in a fixed position, so it’s difficult to see the boy when you navigate to certain parts of the screen. Coupled with areas where the rain can’t touch, where the boy goes completely invisible, this leads to some upsetting issues. Simply trying to discern his position on-screen becomes a chore, which you can’t have in a game that’s attempting to simplify and pacify.
To rid the world of these malevolent beasts, you must fell them with the many environmental traps scattered about the landscape. When the beasts are shaken by disappearing behind cover, a sort of elegant hide and seek game is begun. Unfortunately, the only real option is to cower from them when they go on the prowl, which lends a hopeless motif to the game, but also makes for a pretty boring time, considering most of your time is spent wandering around and running from threats that you need to fell with environmental puzzles. It’s meant to convey a lonely tone with the accompanying piano score and the darkness of an empty city no one is inhabiting, but considering the lack of action, it feels more barebones than anything.
There’s the potential for a beautiful journey here, but Rain seems to be too content to wallow in its melancholy to create any real engaging gameplay. All the set pieces are present for a new nonviolent darling, but with the plodding narrative, uninspired gameplay, and often frustrating camera tied to environmental puzzles, Rain combines a string of mishaps rather than a heartwarming journey to save a little girl in need of a helping hand. It showed promise, but ultimately you may want to look elsewhere — toward Journey or the excellent The Unfinished Swan — for a more savory experience.
Platform: PS3 (PSN)