Graphics:
7.5
Gameplay:
8.4
Sound:
9.5
Control:
7.8
Replay Value:
8.0
Overall Rating:
8.3
Online Gameplay:
Not Rated
Publisher:
SCEA
Developer:
SCE Japan Studio
Number Of Players:
1
Genre:
Adventure
Release Date:
October 1, 2013


“Video games can’t be art.” It was hardly only Roger Ebert who believed that, and many still believe that interactive entertainment will never qualify as “art.” Of course, those in the know are quick to point out progressive, highly thoughtful, and ultimately beautiful productions that could only be deemed artistic. Journey is perhaps the best recent example but Japan Studio’s new game, rain , falls into that same encouraging category. It’s not as clean, as cohesive, or as mechanically sound as Journey , but it still epitomizes beauty in motion.

The rain is relentless. It darkens the skies and washes out one’s surroundings, dampening the spirit and making heavy hearts feel even heavier. That’s the enduring atmosphere, as you might expect given the title. Technically, the graphics aren’t all that impressive and in fact, I’m slightly disappointed at the somewhat dated visual presentation. The level design isn’t perfect, either. That all being said, this is a mystifying, enchanting world that is immersive and oddly romantic. The empty, rainy streets remind me of Paris and the motif is that of a charming painting brought to life. It works on a spiritual level, and that’s what counts.

The highlight of rain is undoubtedly the music. The haunting strings and quiet yet wonderfully effective piano allow the game’s concept to shine. Honestly, without the gorgeous soundtrack, we’d lose a significant chunk of the game’s highly artistic whole. You will hear gorgeous original compositions that continually enhance the experience, and there are also variations of excellent classical pieces, such as Clare de Lune . The effects, which are admittedly limited to different splashing sounds, fit in nicely and aren’t overly insistent. For me, being a huge follower of classical music, that soundtrack will have to be mine.

Upon waking, a boy finds he is in a seemingly empty world. Empty, that is, with the exception of the rain and mysterious, dangerous creatures that patrol the night. Perhaps it’s a nightmare but if so, it has a strange twist: The boy is only visible in the rain. If he steps under an awning or a bridge of some kind, he disappears. The creatures of the night can’t see him and the player can only see his wet footprints when he moves. He spots a young girl, who appears to be trapped in the same odd dimension; she too can only be seen in the rain, and she is continually on the run. The boy sets out after her, hoping to save her from the creatures on her tail, hoping to escape the night, and hoping to find answers.

The story is mostly told through text that pops up in the environment as you progress. However, at the start and end, we see a series of individual paintings, which consist of bright, pleasing pastel colors. There is no narrator and for the most part, the entire rainy world feels subdued. On the one hand, I wish the music had played an even bigger role, because many times, the game is simply too quiet. On the other hand, if one considers the setting and concepts, it only makes sense for silence to often dominate. Rain is subduing, is it not? If you appreciate what the designers were trying to do, you’ll very likely adore the overall presentation.

In terms of gameplay, it’s a pretty straightforward adventure. You have to hide quite a bit and don’t be surprised if you die a lot. The boy is fragile and one strike from one of those nasty creatures (which can also only be seen in the rain), and he’s done. Maneuvering about is simple but the control isn’t flawless. The fixed camera works well, though, and you’ll rarely die due to faulty mechanics. It’s just that jumping isn’t a perfect science and when the camera is positioned a ways off, you can easily lose the wet footprints of the boy if he escapes the rain. But what I didn’t realize is that the game is very co-op oriented and in some ways, it reminded me of ICO .