The Soundtrack to a game can significantly improve the impact of the experience. Music can pull out emotions from us that most other forms of media simply can’t match. Be it a dramatic, sweeping score, clever sound design or simply a lack of sound, it has the ability to extract some sort of emotional resonance from within. It can leave us hopeful, in awe or cowering amongst the shadows, and when cleverly conveyed, you have a vastly superior game on your hands. Rain is just such a game.
The premise of Rain is simple, you play a small, silent little boy who awakes in the night and looks out the window to see the silhouette of a young girl in the rain being chased by a similarly invisible looking monster. Upon seeing this, the boy runs out to try and help her, only to find himself turn invisible in the heavy rain from above. You are then tasked with navigating your way through the dark, ominous world of downpour and shadows, in search of this mysterious girl.
It’s quite an endearing story of loneliness and friendship. Amidst the darkness and gentle silence of the night, you’re met with this presence of being alone. The town is unfamiliar, leaving you to tremble by corners, in anticipation of, “The Unknown,” the invisible creatures of the night, reminiscent of the Nobodies from the, “Kingdom Hearts,” series. It evokes a great sense of melancholy.
However, as you progress through the story, you eventually meet the girl you’ve been longing to help, and she joins you on your quest of navigating the town shrouded in night. As you make your way through the town, an unspoken bond between the children begins to form, and with your companion, suddenly the terror of the creatures seems to be much easier to face.
The gameplay of Rain is quite linear in design. It is primarily an adventure and puzzle game. However, the twist is you are only visible within the precipitation, both for the protagonist and the villains. This gives the game a rather interesting stealth edge, which is your primary and only weapon. You are given nothing to defend yourself from the looming threat of the creatures, and must use the environment around you to either sneak and hide, or incapacitate your attackers. When not figuring out puzzles, you are running, jumping and climbing your way around, always searching for a warm light source that draws them ever nearer to their destination.
As I said though, this game is quite linear in design. You are almost always guided down a set path, with exploration, when possible, only leading to dead ends, or a deep fall to your death. It feels more like an interactive story in which your role is to set each set piece in motion and watch the action unfold. This works both in the game’s favour and against itself. There are plenty of awe inspiring moments of great tension and drama, as the camera fixes into place and you watch a grotesque shadowed figure crawl towards you, with seemingly nothing in your power to stop him. And while it is satisfying stopping them in their tracks, being defeated warrants no punishment to the player. You are simply placed back to just before your death, and are given an unlimited number of retries. It seems to be a system set in place for the platforming elements, but it feels somewhat unbalanced in an adventure title. It diminishes the experience of figuring out a puzzle or besting a foe when you’ll almost immediately reappear in the same location. I personally just felt a little let-down by this, in an otherwise wonderful game.
Where Rain truly excels is in the presentation department. While not rendered on the most powerful of engines, the game is aesthetically beautiful. It is absolutely bursting with charm and a keen sense of artistic direction. As mentioned above, the music in this game is beautiful. Through the use of softly orchestrated music and delightful piano score, the dark tone is perfectly set. The atmosphere is brooding with sombre and melancholic tones. In the games darkest moments, you feel truly alone and lost, as the music disappears and the only sound is the rain thundering down. It’s mysterious, haunting and downright creepy when the score is at its best. However, this is contrasted by the sweet, almost uplifting music when you are accompanied by the silent girl you’ve been tracking. The mix of childlike innocence and whimsy against the dark undertones blends perfectly, and the resulting product is a beautiful soundtrack that, in my opinion, creates a phenomenal experience.
The art direction is also fantastic in this game. The setting is that of a dark Paris, with cluttered, yet empty streets, and buildings all around. The colour palette is meek, with blacks, greys and deep browns, which helps give it a somewhat unique and ominous style that is lovingly contrasted against the warm, very sparse lighting of the town. There is no dialogue within the game, but rather text based narration that sprawls the cities walls, paths and sky. It tells the journey of the boy and girl, while also offering clues and hints to the player, and reinforces the notion that less is more.
We feel a bond forming between the two with not a single word, but rather, the actions they preform together. A rather beautiful tale of love unfolds, as they try and escape the threat of the evil clutches of, “The Unknown,” that stalk them throughout the town. Creepy in design, exemplified by their silhouetted figures within the rain, these creatures make for a tantalising and seemingly unbeatable foe, reminiscent of the un-dead from the, “Resident evil,” series.
One element about this game, however, that is ever apparent throughout is it all feels similar to other games from varying genres. For example, upon immediately booting the game, and beginning my first footsteps into the town, an overwhelming sense of déjà vu is present in the form of, “Limbo.” The dark setting, puzzle/platforming elements and quest to search for a girl screams Limbo in design. As previous said, some of the creatures resemble that of the Zombies from Resident evil, however there are many gameplay elements that also recreate the feel of the original survival horror titles, such as the fixed camera angles and seemingly invincible enemies, that slowly lumber towards you. Even the blending of whimsical moments amongst a sea of melancholy evokes memories of just about any of the Final Fantasy games. While this in no way derails the experience, it does leave the impression that it’s somewhat familiar, and not exactly fresh in design.
In spite of any of the outlined problems, and recognisable feel, Rain is an absolutely splendid experience. The game as a whole cultivates into a wonderfully enjoyable time that always keeps you curious as to what is going to happen next, what’s around each corner and what will be the fate of our silent protagonists. For the price of €13 and around 5 hours of gameplay, with added content after completion, this game is well worth the price of admission to absorb yourself into the wonderfully strange and twisted world, garnished by the delectable soundtrack, beautiful visuals and a superb ending. This is definitely a game well worth adding to your library.