Some might find rainy days to be dreary, but I take odd comfort gazing outside my windows. The drizzle that plops against my window provides a comforting sound that contrasts the dreary grey skies. Rain perfectly emulates how I feel about the actual weather, creating dire situations for its two protagonists while balancing it with beautiful, reflective moments.
You are a boy who sees the silhouette of a girl in the middle of the night, fearful and running for her life. The boy follows and ventures forth into a world that’s familiar and off-kilter. The boy no longer has a physical form; what’s left is the silhouette shown only by the rain that drips down his body—he’s invisible where there’s none present. The boy isn’t alone, however, as every creature also hides behind the rain. His new-found state is not unique, and he is not equipped to deal with the creatures of the rain. With no other choice, the boy keeps running and hiding within any shelter that isn’t drenched by the rain.
Fortunately for me and the boy, the solutions are limited and easy to spot. Scenes are set up as set pieces of a movie. Progression is linear with little room for exploration; combined with the fixed camera angles, the boy will always be on the right path . While I was never lost, I sometimes felt my point-of-view was obscured by the fixed camera angles. This meant that I would make certain jumps that I thought looked plausible but were merely part of the dreary scenery.
There are moments of exploration; however, these paths are not to be explored on the first play-through. This means that I would often wander off a path—sometimes to my death—wondering the point of its placement. It isn’t until after the game opens up when I could explore these paths, finding memories that offer glimmers of the protagonists' former lives. While this is meant to encourage a second play-through, I would rather the developers hide the memories and open up a few more paths to explore and options for sneaking past enemies.
Most of the challenges come from removing obstacles from you and your companion’s path, and escaping various enemies including the Unknown. Although there is variety, Rain will introduce certain puzzles that usually aren’t expanded. For instance, the boy stumbled across a surprisingly docile creature whose spine served as a makeshift umbrella from the rain, and they never make another appearance in the game. When the boy finally teams up with the girl, the puzzles do not change considerably and it mechanically feels the same. Where this comes in handy, however, is when the girl or you must rush quickly to save each other--not because of bad AI but because of the present scene. These moments are among the game's most tense, whether I rush to hopefully save the girl in time or avoid the Unknown just long enough for the her to save my hide.
While it’s easy to dismiss the game mechanics as shallow, Rain clearly thinks of its puzzles as set pieces, and for good reason: Rain is one of the most oddly beautiful games . Because the boy and girl cannot communicate verbally, Rain uses stylized font that's scattered about at interesting angles. Some of it is a bit too small to read, but it successfully brings the characters and their motivations to life. The Rain itself seems to be a character, and it brings the dark grey slabs of concrete to life. Pianos and accordions help bring the dark city to life, bringing memories of old European architecture in an otherwise a dark wasteland. And even though I complained that the puzzles seemed shallow, they're properly varied to help drive the story.
The only other criticism I have is that the story has too much padding towards the end. They could have ended it at several instances, and by the end I started to lose interest. The ending itself ends on a happy note, but there’s a few remaining threads in the main plot that feel unraveled, and I’m not sure the hidden memories will be able to explain how the characters reached their fate.
So Rain is an anomaly in which I question the value in a game. It only takes one play-through in order to experience the full game . And yet, perhaps Rain is only a game that needs to be played once, and maybe worth revisiting on yet another rainy day.
This review is based on a digitally downloaded review copy of the game for the PlayStation 3 provided by Sony Computer Entertainment.