|Dev: PlayStation C.A.M.P., Acquire, SCE Japan Studio|
|Release: October 1, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Joshua Bruce
When I finished rain and the credits rolled, I found myself in a state of befuddlement that I can honestly say I’ve never felt about a game before. Typically, I know exactly how I feel about a game pretty early on in a playthrough. But with rain, I didn’t know how I felt about it, even after completion. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; in fact, it actually makes me like the game more.
Unlike most games, rain is not the sum of its parts. While each piece of this wet puzzle has its own merits, the game that emerges is much more than any one part can take credit for. Simplicity is a recurring theme here, and this less-is-more mentality starts with the story.
In rain, you play as “the Boy.” We never know his name, and he barely has any backstory: All we know about him is that he has a fever, doesn’t go to the circus, and has the unassailable urge to follow a ghostly figure of a girl he spots from his window. The other main character of the game, “the Girl,” is just as enigmatic, if not more so. As you traverse “the Town” (I’m not making this up, this is as detailed as it gets), the boy and the girl dodge other creatures that can only be seen in the rain, the most menacing of which is “the Unknown,” who plays a large role throughout the game as well.
But this lack of detail enables something much more interesting within the game. It brings to life themes and emotions that would normally be hidden by a veneer of inconsequential details that would have only degraded this game. Thematic concepts like fear, bravery, friendship, loneliness, and uncertainty are at the heart of the game, and every effort was made to minimalize any interference that might’ve presented itself through needless additions. The lack of story detail isn’t a weakness of rain, it is actually its biggest strength.
The minimalist approach continues into the gameplay mechanics and control scheme as well. The functions of rain rely almost solely on the character’s ability to become invisible in dry places. Moving under an awning will hide you from the plethora of rain monsters that seem to want nothing more than your utter destruction. This is the most prevalent gameplay mechanic, and using this to weave your way through the ever-odder streets of the town is a must. Simply running away while able to be seen in the rain is a fatal mistake.
Your can also be revealed by playing in muddy puddles, which can be reversed by running through a clean puddle, unless, of course, you got really down and dirty, then you have to submerge yourself in clean water to reverse the effects of your muddiness. Stomping and jumping in puddles also plays a role in enemy distraction, allowing you to progress. The control scheme doesn’t stray beyond movement with the left thumbstick, a button for running, a button for jumping, and an interact button–leaving the majority of gameplay to the mercy of the environment.
But if you really want to talk about minimalism, we have to get into the audio of rain. Beyond the wails of the unknown beasts, there are no voices. Actually, there’s no dialogue whatsoever. The entire story is told by text that is cleverly inserted into the environment, which I thoroughly enjoyed. This keeps the game moving while delivering the story silently through narration within the context of the screen. Dialogue is just another thing that was eliminated to help emphasize the core emotions of the game.