Soaking with charm.
Rain is a charming new game from Sony’s well-regarded Japan Studio that puts players in control of a little boy dealing with fantastical circumstances. He’s watching the rain pour outside his window, when the form of a little girl appears and is being chased by an invisible monster. He follows them and turns invisible himself, only appearing when rain is pouring down upon him. Now he must help the little girl and find a way to recover his own body.
This concept is wonderfully utilized in the gameplay, which is something of a linear puzzle platformer. It is similar to last year’s Papo & Yo in how none of the puzzles are intended to be incredibly challenging, instead allowing players to absorb each of the eight chapters smoothly. Most involve finding a way to navigate around other invisible enemies, whom you cannot fight, because they are the kill-in-one-hit sort. Using roofed areas to lose sight of your body and moving some objects around are the keys to the majority of scenarios.
Because of the ease of the journey, Rain ends up being short, coming in at around four hours. The only parts I found challenging were occasional chase scenes involving the first invisible monster, called the Unknown. The camera is fixed in each scene, and it can take a life-costing second to figure out where you need to go on a new screen. Luckily, checkpoints are very generous, usually being one or two screens before where you meet your demise. No section was particularly frustrating or required excessive dexterity to traverse.
Overall, Rain is pleasant to look at with romantic western European-style city scenery and unique enemy designs. The rain effect itself is well done, and both the boy and girl have expressive character models when deluged with water. However, I did grow weary of the darkness and general purple hue most of the city is draped in. It wasn’t until the last few chapters that the game provides some more color to refresh the eyes and more surreal scenery to take advantage of its fantasy roots. This makes the game’s short length work in its favor, of course.
It may come as a surprise, but the story doesn’t have much more to it beyond what you already know. The characters are silent, but textual narration is inlaid into the scenery as you progress, typically only dictating what’s happening before you. It has a fitting conclusion, though the writers took the easy way out to wrap it all up. I think a chapter or so that explores the protagonists’ unusual circumstances could have gone a long way towards building empathy. The most moving aspect of "narration" was the beautiful score, which was emotional and inviting. The composer also utilized Claude Debussy’s famous Claire de Lune to characterize the two protagonists to great effect.
I should note that after the game is completed once, a “Collection” is unlocked, which allows you to find additional exposition-revealing orbs throughout each chapter, 24 in all. These pieces, though brief, actually do a lot of favors to the existing story, adding more background. I highly recommend that if you do purchase Rain, you should play it a second time for these pieces, tucked in previously unrewarding corners of the main game’s scenery. I only wish it had more reasons to go off the beaten path.
I think Rain, with its simple design and story, is best for families to play together or gamers looking for a relaxing weekend jaunt. It is for the most part quite lovely, but it lacks both the narrative and visual punches that could have ascended it to more worldly appeal and acclaim.