Mood and atmosphere are dominating the PlayStation Store library these days with hit after hit of wonderful little gems that keep their mechanics simple and their plots even simpler. These minimalist beauties have found another worthy title to add to their ranks in rain, the latest from Tokyo Jungle creator PlayStation C.A.M.P.
There is definitely no shortage of a beautiful melancholy in rain. From beginning to end, C.A.M.P.’s limited PlayStation 2 worthy visuals are put to great effect in creating one of the more memorable settings in a video game in recent times.
The rain effects, the carefully laid out streets, the music, the overall sense of lost hope and loneliness, PlayStation C.A.M.P. nails every aspect of its visual presentation.
Like Teardrops in the Rain…
A young boy awakens on the dimly lit streets of a faux-European town to find that he is completely invisible and completely alone. No other humans wander the midnight beat, but he finds the company of plenty of other ghastly beasts out to devour his spirit. The rain drenches him, but he discovers that walking through it is the only way to achieve any shape or physical form.
Before long, he finds another ghostly girl who seems to be stuck in the same predicament. Together, they must find a way through the rainy night being pulled by the unexplainable allure of light, be it the moon or the welcoming sight of a cozy living room.
In the meantime, an unrelenting spirit referred to only as The Unknown warps and twists the reality of this nightmare in an effort to prevent them from finding the light of day.
rain’s plot is intentionally kept shallow. Characters are left unexplained, the motive for The Unknown’s constant pursuit is never fleshed out, and even the reasoning behind these children’s predicament is never explored. Are they dead? Are the dreaming? Who knows? Very little is explained and much is left up to the imagination of the player.
What little is explained is done through dry and emotionless text which pops up as the couple bound through the levels.
“He saw her there on the bridge”
“He had not yet been found.”
“He crossed the bridge where the girl had crossed earlier.”
“He had managed to escape from The Unknown.”
The constantly streaming text that comes from this game is the sole Achilles Heel of this title’s otherwise perfect presentation. The simplicity is obviously intentional to remove all emotional connection from the story, but it gets in the way and more often than not states what the visuals had already displayed a second earlier.
It’s almost as if the game is reading the player’s mind, being printed just as I had thought it and even breaks the cardinal sin of explaining game mechanics I had already discovered. It’s almost as if the writers didn’t trust their audience to figure the game out on their own, like a Nintendo effort.
Without these, rain still would have had the same emotional impact, if not an even stronger one. Each text scroll just worked towards removing me from the setting.
That’s the Power of Love
Besides the constant presence of rain, nothing is stronger than the power of love and cooperation in this game.
Much like its obvious inspiration, ICO, rain manages to create an emotional connection between the player and the AI character tagging along with him. The young boy must always remain vigilant in fending off monsters and helping the girl find a safe path through even the worst of situations.
In turn, she is always ready to lend a helping hand, grasping his wrist when a jump is just out of reach or lowering a ladder or box to give him a prop up to safety from the scavenging beasts ever searching for them.
The main drive of the game comes not from the heavy handed narration, but rather simply wanting to see both of these characters escape this hell-ride alive. Nothing else is really needed than the game simply showing these two cooperate during a lonely night.
Only Puddle Deep
rain delivers on its story front, but the gameplay is where this little gem might come up a little shallow. Not that there is something wrong with simple mechanics. Games dating back to the days of the NES have had simple mechanics and survived in popularity to this day. Even ICO managed to get by with just jumping and swinging a stick.
rain delivers on the mechanics. The children have no means of attack and can only rely on shelter from the rain, which makes them invisible to enemies. With this simple mechanic, PlayStation C.A.M.P. carves out a handful of great puzzles through distracting enemies, manipulating the level layout to create roofs and invisibility thanks to protection from the rain, and even steer parasitic ghost beetles into a herd of demons.
It’s a wonderful little mechanic, and when tied to the platforming and some tense “close call” situations, it can make for some exciting moments.
The problem comes from there simply not being enough of these moments. The game is excruciatingly linear and more often than not leads the boy on a strictly predetermined pathway. These puzzles crop up with occasional frequency, but often in between long periods of simple jumping or just running in a straight line.
More often than not, I was thinking “Boy, I’d really like to be solving some puzzles right now in this puzzle platformer.” To my surprise, though, the game did not print that thought on the screen.
rain is one of the first games of its kind where I would actually encourage a DLC pack just because I feel this is a mechanic that can be pushed even further than the original usage. Wanting more from a video game mechanic and not wanting the playthrough to the end is a far better reaction than a dozen mechanics which never work right.
Brevity is the Soul of Wit
ICO, Journey, and Shadow of the Colossus might provide an all around better package, but rain is a nice little supplementary game…
rain is a classic case of under-delivering, a rare occurrence in video games these days when AAA efforts often offer so many ideas and yet never excel at a single memorable one. For this, I have to recommend rain for at least getting its goal off the ground despite not going too far with it.
If a puzzle platformer being shallow is too detrimental, then you might want to give it a pass. rain has some wonderful ideas, but doesn’t dive into them enough for its 3 to 4 hour running time.
However, if you have no problem and just want to enjoy a nice romp through a clever little game that is brimming with atmosphere, then rain should not be overlooked.
Speed run enthusiasts should get a kick out of its short running time, and it encourages replay by not opening secrets until the second playthrough. Strict adherence to the plot is guaranteed your first time, then you can explore the deep corners of this gorgeous world.
ICO, Journey, and Shadow of the Colossus might provide an all around better package, but rain is a nice little supplementary game which can kill a nice afternoon or a lonely rainy night.