Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Rain (PS3 download exclusive)

Rain, or 'rain' (without the capital R) as the game calls itself isn't a title that I'd heard of before I saw it crop up on PSN network a couple of years back. At the time I was really intrigued by the concept, but didn't actually download it due to being a bit short on cash, and so it just went completely out of my head for a long while. Fast-forward in time to last Xmas and I noticed it had been discounted so I decided to download it to give it a go at a later date. Recently, and still not having read any reviews, I decided to finally fire it up and try it out.

Developed by Sony's Japan Studio, of Ico and Shadow Of The Colossus fame, the game has a very similar Ico-style feel to it. You play as a young boy who, after seeing what looks like a girl being chased by a shadowy figure, travels through a doorway into an alternate dimension to rescue her. On the other side of the doorway, it's always dark and perpetually rains, and this is the whole premise the game is based this world, most living creatures are invisible (including the boy and girl themselves) unless they're standing in the rain and can be seen by their ghostly silhouettes. It's a clever idea, and lends itself to some interesting puzzles, such as being able to sneak past monsters by walking underneath an overhanging ledge so you stay out of the rainfall and they can't see you. Unfortunately, this also applies to the monsters as well, but you can always see where you and they are by looking at the trail of wet footprints each character leaves behind.

As the boy searches for the girl he chased after, it soon becomes apparent that a large monster is constantly stalking the children and chasing them from area to area. Only ever referred to as 'The Unknown', you always get a sense of dread when this thing appears as it can outrun and kill you easily if it spots you. There is no combat in Rain whatsoever, so you have to outsmart it instead, which usually involves either finding the best places to hide, or distracting it whilst you sneak away. Distractions in Rain are caused by making noises (usually by jumping in puddles), or using an item such as a doll to attract the monsters' attention, and you'll have to learn to use them if you want to see the story through to the end. Thankfully, the checkpoints are fairly generous and you're never sent back too far if you die, and the game also offers hints if you keep making mistakes and die repeatedly.

Run, Forrest! Run!
Rain, like Ico before it manages to tell a compelling story with few words and without ever naming the main characters. By subtle use of the soundtrack alongside the incessant faint thrumming of the rain it even manages to convey emotions such as loneliness, fear, and joy when they're called for. It constantly manages to maintain your interest whilst driving you forward to the next chapter, and even though the basic game mechanics and how the puzzles work never really changes, it manages to keep things fresh by putting a slightly different spin on things each time you encounter a new enemy, or The Unknown comes charging after you to attack you again.

Rain certainly isn't the longest game you'll ever play (clocks in at around 7 hours) but it's just the right length for it not to outstay it's welcome and be remembered as an enjoyable experience rather than one that dragged. When it ends, it ends pretty much at the point where it can no longer present you with new ideas or ways to do things, and also has quite a satisfying conclusion to boot. On top of this, completing the game also unlocks 'memories' (additional storyline details) that are hidden around the levels in the form of floating orbs that only appear when you're close to them so it's a perfect excuse to relive the adventure at least one more time, even if it never quite manages to reach the same kind of heights that Ico and Shadow Of The Colossus did

TromaDogg's Final Verdict: 8/10

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