Thursday, 3 April 2014

Review: Rain (PS3)

What makes a good story? This is a question which has been thrown around the world of gaming for many years now. In the past we have accepted that games hold a basic story which, in some cases, did not to be there at all. In recent times though, games have become like movies in delivery stories to audiences. Some are grand scale adventure hits and some are subtle. These subtle ones are the ones which, personally, leave the lasting impression. These are stories which bring certain emotions to the surface and whether these are happy or sad, it does not matter as they mean something to you personally. The PSN exclusive rain, fits nicely into this category.

Rain follows the story of a boy who finds himself lost in the rain. Whilst wondering the streets  night to see a silhouette of a girl who is "caught" in the rain. When the boy goes to follow her, he too becomes caught and from there you see yourself on an emotional, invisible, journey to discover what it is all about. The journey seems easy at first but there is a giant creature, The Unknown, chasing this other child and soon turns to you. As well as the Unknown, there are other creatures in the world that want to harm you and their design adds to the fear created by their presents. They look like menacing dogs that you would cross the road to avoid.

For a game which needs to tell a story it does it in a very simple way. It reminds me of those children's books where you have one picture and then a line of text. It is a primitive way of telling a story, but it does the job well. These sections only give you a basic understanding of the story which rain is trying to tell you and to full understand the story the player needs to put it together themselves by using hints and clues scatters throughout the world. This may not be to everyone's taste as some players just like a basic, easy to understand story. This one is more a like a well written book where, as many English teachers have said, you must read between the lines.

The main gameplay element is the rain itself. When you are in the rain itself, your silhouettes is visible and when you are under cover, you are invisible. This increases the fear well as there are times when The Unknown could be standing right in front if you but it has no idea you are even there. The only other thing which can do is run and this can add great elements of fear too. There are many sequences you will find yourself running blindly hoping not to be caught by anything. These are the main building block of the “gameplay” of rain and this, like the narrative, may not suit every gamer as it is not in your face action but rather a subtle form of action.

With the game having such a simple formula and that you are invisible for most of the game, there are many sections where can easily become lost. I found myself wandering around section having no idea what to do next.  The strange (but very effective to the feeling of the game) camera angles did not help too much either. They obstruct the view a few times and make you wish you could move it yourself but this is not what the game allows you to do!

There are many new mechanics thrown at you during your journey, both to aid and hinder you, but they are not utilised to their full potential. You will find later on in the story that you and the mysterious girl can help each other by moving items around or by trapping enemies but this is only used sparingly throughout the short story. Another fun feature was that if you step in muddy water you leave foot prints in the rain, meaning that enemies can easily spot you when you hide from the rain. The only way to stop this is to walk through clean water. This here could have created some very interesting puzzles but it is not used efficiently. It feels like a monkey see, monkey do situation. What the game could have easily done is build each level on what you learnt previously. Make a puzzle out of a puzzle. This is what games are about, progression but this goes back to what makes a good story. Did the developers purposely make gameplay straight forward so that the player focuses more on the emotions being created with the atmosphere? If so, then the game achieves this perfectly as some of the best memories created are this if just sheer beauty. Like running invisible through the puddles in beautiful, yet somehow haunting streets.

Rain does not boast a long run time. At most you will find yourself completing it within three hours but it is full of wonder and a great narrative. I would not say you would go back to it straight away as it does not offer any replay value but you may come back to it a few months later.

With a magnificent water colour inspired backdrop, the warm glow of the street lamps, the realistic water effects, a well written soundtrack and a simple narrative 
, the world of rain is both beautiful and haunting. Rain has managed to capture the magnificent change of a city when subjected to rain and on a rainy night, if you closed your eyes and listen to the falling rain, I honestly believe that this is the world you would see.
Upon a first glance, rain is a puzzling title in which you will find it hard to explain to others. You will find yourself experiencing rain through curiosity. Perhaps this is what the game developers wanted as the whole game is built around the human nature of needing to know. Rain is a title which can be enjoyed by people watching as well as the player. This is achieved through a strong narrative, gorgeous graphics and an easy listening soundtrack. Where rain falls short in the puzzle department it makes up in the story telling. The game may not be for every player out there, but it is a title which should not be missed or judged.

Rain is that one book hidden in a library. But once it is found, it will leave a lasting impression & will keep you thinking a lot longer than you expected.


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