NOTE: THIS WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AS A STAFF WRITER AT THE NOW DEFUNCT SPLITKICK.COM
REVIEWED BY JEFF CONOLLY ON PS3
With the beautiful watercolor cinemas that bookend the game, the use of Clair De Lune, and the incredibly clever visibility mechanic, Rain is aesthetically brilliant. As a puzzle-adventure game that steals more than a few tropes, motifs, and gameplay from the survival horror genre, it’s a great experience for you and a “My First Silent Hill” for your kids.
You play as a young boy trapped in a dark otherworld version of his home town. In this monster-filled nightmare, you, the roaming creatures, and the persistent “unknown” that is hunting you are all invisible. In the constant rain, your silhouette is revealed. Stand under an awning, protected from the falling water, and the monsters can’t find you. Fall in the mud and hiding is no longer an option, your mud-caked form revealed even in otherwise safe areas.
The story plays out like something in between a French art film and a bedtime story. Its presentation is wonderful. The opening and closing is all told through watercolor art in the vein of how Reading Rainbow used to showcase illustrations. The in game narrative is chronicled by text that appears at the same angle of buildings and other in game assets (similar to the location texts from the TV show Fringe). Yet as detailed and stylized as these elements are, the overall tale is left subtle and largely up to interpretation.
Unfortunately, the two things that hold this title back are its overall gameplay and the price. The gameplay isn’t bad, per say. In fact, in parts it’s quite good. There’s no combat and being caught by a monster is instant death, so the majority of the game is a series of “how do I get past this monster” puzzles. The problem is that the in rain/out of rain visibility mechanic is just too amazing, and you can’t help but feel let down that it just isn’t fully explored. Unlike games like Braid, which utilize clever game mechanics in smart and surprising ways, Rain’s puzzles are both easy and predictable. There’s even an ever-present hint option, not that you’ll need it.
As far as price goes, this game has the Gone Home problem. There’s a lot of debate by individuals more qualified and talented than myself about whether or not price should factor in a review at all, and I’m sympathetic with both sides. That said, I beat it in only a handful of hours and it costs $15. The price isn’t ideal, and will make it harder for this game to find its way into the hands that would appreciate it. This is especially true given that this is a very good but also flawed game, and it probably won’t have gamers and reviewers proselytizing it’s worth in the way Journey or Gone Home did.
All in all, Rain is a powerful, albeit small experience for anyone that has a PS3 and likes adventure or survival horror. It’s got a lot of great ideas and beautiful atmosphere. Although I wish it’d been more varied and challenging, I’m definitely glad I played it and think that it’s one that would be a shame to miss.