- Developer - SCE Japan Studio
- Publisher - SCE
- Platform - PlayStation 3 (PlayStation Network)
- Release date - Autumn TBA
- Price - TBA
There's melancholia in Rain, and you don't get that from a lot of computer games. There are dashes of ICO and even Manhunt in here, but they're infused with this sadness, this real off-colour that makes the game more intriguing.
You play a boy searching for a girl in a mysterious other world while you're both pursued by monsters. That's the ICO bit. The Manhunt is in the stealth mechanics. In this other world, the boy is invisible unless he's standing in rain. To hide from monsters, you have to huddle beneath verandas and shop doorways to make yourself see through again. It's kind of the equivalent of crouching in the shadows as James Cash, except in Rain it's fantasy creatures looking for you, not skinheads with shotguns.
The game plays a lot with this visible/invisible idea. Basic set-ups see you faced with a street littered with creatures, meaning you have to dart between shelter to make your way from one end to the other. More complex puzzles are introduced as you go on. You might step in a patch of mud, meaning enemies can follow your footsteps even when you're translucent. Or you might have to find some way of moving unseen, which means luring a big giraffe like creature over to you by splashing in a puddle, then crouching beneath it as it walks away again.
Puzzles are offset by some basic platforming; Rain has a minimalistic three button control scheme. You walk with the left stick, naturally, jump with X, run with square and examine with circle. That's it. You can't fight the creatures (though you can lure them into traps) and there's nothing more complicated to do than move, hide and mantle over obstacles.
Playing Rain feels very straightforward; from what we've tried, it seems like the action's been intentionally dialled back to let the rest of the game breathe. It's really the unhappy aesthetic that's important here. The eponymous, endless rain coupled with teary music (Debussy's Clair De Lune marks the title card) make for a game that's nakedly downbeat. The story's this kind of off-key fairytale, more Child in the Grave than the Little Mermaid, and you get the sense that this is all a parable for something.
Childhood maybe? Young person's angst? Most of us can relate to that anxiety of not being seen, not getting enough attention from parent's, friends or the boys or girls at school. "An invisible boy who can only be seen when he's in the rain": You don't have to work that hard to find a subtext.
Perhaps that's a bad thing. Rain is quiet, reserved, simplistic, but it seems to be wearing its "message" very much on its sleeve. If you can speedily grasp the undertones, the basic, perhaps vaguely familiar gameplay won't be enough to fill the whole where substance should be. From what we've played, Rain is tranquil, sombre and picturesque - it's the gaming equivalent of staring out a bus window. But the full thing needs to be a little more.
It's great to see a game so melancholic, and the wet/dry paradigm resembles a new take on old stealth play but it just feels a bit airy, a bit navel gazing. Sad games are a string to pull on but Rain, for now, feels a little half-hearted. It needs to give it a good yank and really go for the misery, the complexity.
From what we've played, Rain is still good - it's simplistic and sporadically beautiful. Hopefully though, come autumn when we get to play the whole thing, we'll see a game with sharper teeth.