The newest "art game" to hit the PlayStation Network is Rain, from SCE Japan Studio, Acquire and PlayStation C.A.M.P. It tells the story of a boy who meets a girl. Well, at least it tells a story of a boy who's trying to meet a girl, but mysterious circumstances force them further apart at every turn. One of those circumstances happens to be that they're both stuck in an alternate dimension and are rendered invisible. Is Rain something you should consider adding to your digital library? Or are you better off staying dry and avoiding this title altogether?
When you start Rain, you can't help but be reminded of old silent films and maybe even some picturebooks from your childhood. Lines of text appear on screen and there are no spoken words. You're just told the story of a boy and his quest into the darkness of a rain-soaked night. The boy in question is happily sitting at home when he notices a girl in the rain outside. Right off the bat, he notices that she's special. Why? Because she's invisible. And it's only thanks to the rain that he can see her.
But it turns out that she's not alone, as a monster dubbed the Unknown shambles out of the darkness, who is also invisible except for when standing in the downpour. The Unknown gives chase and sends her running into the belly of the city. Our punitive hero takes off after them and eventually passes through a large door. Once through it, he notices that he, too, has become invisible.
It is then your task to search the city for the girl and save her from the Unknown. But you also have to remember that you're an unarmed little boy with no discernible powers or skills with weapons, so you'll have to use your wit and small size to evade the invisible monsters that constantly prowl the streets.
Thankfully, the controls are very simple, so you won't be asked to do much more than you can handle. You'll be able to interact with items, allowing you to close/open doors, pick up items and grab/push on boxes. You can also run and jump, the consequences of which can change depending on your situation. For example, since you and your enemies are invisible, this means that the only way you'll be noticed is if you stand in the rain or make a lot of noise that draws the creatures to you. The best way to remain unseen is to walk slowly over puddles (running causes noisy splashes), and jumping/climbing to the high ground. If you stay out in the rain, you're liable to get caught and dragged into the darkness.
Evading monsters successfully is a matter of solving Rain's environmental puzzles. These spatial brain teasers aren't overly difficult, but sometimes they require a certain level of finesse to solve. For example, you might make your way down a hallway without a roof in which a there are several monsters on patrol. You manage to remain unseen, but come to a point during which the monsters will turn around and spot you. The only objects in the area are three lockers that you can open in order to hide inside. If you're not careful, you might pick a lock with a hole at the top, which lets rain fall through. This means that you'll be visible to any monster walking past. Picking a locker that's intact is the only way to make it out alive, but you'll have to be observant and quick to spot it.
Other puzzles require you to actually move objects around, such as boxes and platforms. You might not even end up crossing a platform, but will probably use it as a cover from the rain to move around unseen. Again, Rain's puzzles are not overly difficult, but sometimes you just need the right reflexes to solve them.
Rain's story is comprised of eight chapters spent in the dark, rainy town. It is a good thing then, that this town has many varied areas and it never feels like you're in the same place twice. In fact, half the fun of Rain was exploring this eerie burg and all of the different aesthetics it had to offer. Whether you were echoing your footsteps deep in the sewers below the city, splashing around an abandoned church or even running for your life in a circus tent (one of my worst fears), the city in Rain almost acted like a character itself.
To accompany the somewhat hopeless, almost solemn visuals is a subdued soundtrack comprised mainly of piano melodies. The music pairs well with the constant soft symphonies of raindrops on the ground, almost lulling you into a very relaxed state. Of course, all of this is broken once you're being chased by the Unknown or any of the other invisible creatures, but it's nice to relax to during the game's more quiet moments.
Rain is a tough game for me to classify. It's an adventure game, that's for sure, but it also has splashes of the stealth, survival horror and puzzle game genres. It mixes all of these components well to form an adventure that you'll most likely end up playing from beginning to end in one sitting. And that isn't because it's a little on the shorter side, taking about three to four hours to complete, but because it's just that gripping. You'll want to see the adventure through to the end and make sure that these kids have a happily ever after existence.
Lucky for you, Rain itself isn't invisible and can be downloaded from the PlayStation Store right now. Go grab it. Go experience it. You won't regret it and you'll be full of... feelings. And that's a good thing.
This review was based on a digital copy of Rain for PlayStation 3 that was purchased for review.