PS3 Reviews: rain Review

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rain Review

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Graphics:

 

7.5

Gameplay:

 

8.4

Sound:

 

9.5

Control:

 

7.8

Replay Value:

 

8.0

Overall Rating:       8.3

 

 

Online Gameplay:

Not Rated

Publisher:

SCEA

Developer:

SCE Japan Studio

Number Of Players:

1

Genre:

Adventure

Release Date:

October 1, 2013

“Video games can’t be art.” It was hardly only Roger Ebert who believed that, and many still believe that interactive entertainment will never qualify as “art.” Of course, those in the know are quick to point out progressive, highly thoughtful, and ultimately beautiful productions that could only be deemed artistic. Journey is perhaps the best recent example but Japan Studio’s new game, rain, falls into that same encouraging category. It’s not as clean, as cohesive, or as mechanically sound as Journey, but it still epitomizes beauty in motion.

The rain is relentless. It darkens the skies and washes out one’s surroundings, dampening the spirit and making heavy hearts feel even heavier. That’s the enduring atmosphere, as you might expect given the title. Technically, the graphics aren’t all that impressive and in fact, I’m slightly disappointed at the somewhat dated visual presentation. The level design isn’t perfect, either. That all being said, this is a mystifying, enchanting world that is immersive and oddly romantic. The empty, rainy streets remind me of Paris and the motif is that of a charming painting brought to life. It works on a spiritual level, and that’s what counts.

The highlight of rain is undoubtedly the music. The haunting strings and quiet yet wonderfully effective piano allow the game’s concept to shine. Honestly, without the gorgeous soundtrack, we’d lose a significant chunk of the game’s highly artistic whole. You will hear gorgeous original compositions that continually enhance the experience, and there are also variations of excellent classical pieces, such as Clare de Lune. The effects, which are admittedly limited to different splashing sounds, fit in nicely and aren’t overly insistent. For me, being a huge follower of classical music, that soundtrack will have to be mine.

Upon waking, a boy finds he is in a seemingly empty world. Empty, that is, with the exception of the rain and mysterious, dangerous creatures that patrol the night. Perhaps it’s a nightmare but if so, it has a strange twist: The boy is only visible in the rain. If he steps under an awning or a bridge of some kind, he disappears. The creatures of the night can’t see him and the player can only see his wet footprints when he moves. He spots a young girl, who appears to be trapped in the same odd dimension; she too can only be seen in the rain, and she is continually on the run. The boy sets out after her, hoping to save her from the creatures on her tail, hoping to escape the night, and hoping to find answers.

The story is mostly told through text that pops up in the environment as you progress. However, at the start and end, we see a series of individual paintings, which consist of bright, pleasing pastel colors. There is no narrator and for the most part, the entire rainy world feels subdued. On the one hand, I wish the music had played an even bigger role, because many times, the game is simply too quiet. On the other hand, if one considers the setting and concepts, it only makes sense for silence to often dominate. Rain is subduing, is it not? If you appreciate what the designers were trying to do, you’ll very likely adore the overall presentation.

In terms of gameplay, it’s a pretty straightforward adventure. You have to hide quite a bit and don’t be surprised if you die a lot. The boy is fragile and one strike from one of those nasty creatures (which can also only be seen in the rain), and he’s done. Maneuvering about is simple but the control isn’t flawless. The fixed camera works well, though, and you’ll rarely die due to faulty mechanics. It’s just that jumping isn’t a perfect science and when the camera is positioned a ways off, you can easily lose the wet footprints of the boy if he escapes the rain. But what I didn’t realize is that the game is very co-op oriented and in some ways, it reminded me of ICO.

This is because you eventually catch the girl and when you do, you must work together. She’s not quite as agile as the boy, but you don’t have to worry about leaving her behind. She can go wherever you can go, but sometimes you get split up. That’s when you have to free the other from the scrutinizing eye of a wandering demon, which could involve creating a bridge for hiding from the rain, or carrying a doll to distract the monster. There are other puzzles as well, and there are other elements to the gameplay. For instance, walking through muddy puzzles will soil your shoes and pants, which will make you visible even when out of the rain. Plus, later on, you’ll come across parasite-like creatures that can eliminate tough enemies for you (if properly lured).

These are all good ideas but here’s where we come to the game’s biggest downside. For whatever reason, these ideas are never fully developed. The co-op aspects are fun and solidly created but in general, the puzzles feel somewhat repetitive and a little uninspired. In my estimation, a lot more could’ve been done with the muddy puddle problem, for instance, and working together could’ve been much more complex. Furthermore, as the story is very abstract, in that you only have a few specific hints as to what’s actually happening, you can start to feel a little bored.

There’s not much in the way of exploring (which I don’t mind) but when you have a largely linear progression, an intriguing but undefined narrative, and a series of missed opportunities, the result is moderately underwhelming. This is why rain misses elite status in my eyes. However, while the game only takes about 3-4 hours, depending on how quickly you move, there is incentive to play again. Completing the story once opens up new memories that can be found in each chapter, which expand upon the abstract story. You learn a bit more about the boy’s situation before he fell asleep, for example, and you’ll glimpse reasons as to why the girl coughed often. All you really know is that both were sick; the boy had a fever.

Above all, this game is a lot more than the sum of its parts. It's about feeling emotionally attached to the situation and while that can fade at times, you always return to the charm and appeal. It’s subtle beauty rather than insistent beauty. It imparts a sensation of relaxation and strangely enough, comfort. There is indeed something oddly comforting about helping this boy and girl on their shared quest. I think it’s because beneath it all, at the core of the tale, is an idea with which all of humanity can identify. When we sense that, we feel an almost irresistible draw to fulfill the goal, to see the adventure through to the end. In short, it makes us smile.

rain isn’t a monolith of technical superiority, nor is it devoid of shortcomings. The story loses us every now and then, the control isn’t always spot-on, and there were missed design and gameplay opportunities. But the result is what matters. What matters is that we feel as if we’re part of something attractively surreal, an interactive endeavor with intrigue and a bit of philosophy, a distinct style and ambiance that is simple yet memorable. Once we accept that an interactive experience involves more than merely pressing buttons, we realize that video games like rain are extraordinarily important in more ways than one.

The Good: Effective atmosphere. Beautiful, critically important soundtrack. Intriguing, mystical narrative. Co-op elements and most puzzles are well constructed. Solid control. An artistic expression brought to life.

The Bad: Story is a tad too abstract. Missed opportunities lead to uninspired, somewhat repetitive design.

The Ugly: “Not ‘ugly,’ but it’s slightly disappointing knowing that with a bit more gameplay innovation, this could’ve been amazing.”

10/1/2013 Ben Dutka

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Comments (22 posts)

Temjin001
Tuesday, October 01, 2013 @ 10:30:28 PM
Reply

disappointing.
maybe I'll check it out when it's being sold for $7. maybe.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Tuesday, October 01, 2013 @ 10:34:28 PM

WHAT about this review is disappointing?

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Temjin001
Tuesday, October 01, 2013 @ 10:39:53 PM

less than I wanted. seems like the majority of critics believe this as well.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, October 02, 2013 @ 1:24:15 AM

I don't think you actually read my review.

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Temjin001
Wednesday, October 02, 2013 @ 1:24:49 AM

umm okay. not sure what your problem is.

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Temjin001
Wednesday, October 02, 2013 @ 1:42:29 AM

and for a game to have received a handful of "Best PS3 game of E3 2013" awards and strong enthusiasm from various sites leading up to it's release to ultimately shore up underdeveloped qualities that kept if from being what many had hoped for is plenty to be disappointed with. I don't understand why you've responded the way you have.
I don't think the game is crap, if you somehow think that's what I'm implying. And I did read several reviews, including yours, to put to rest your doubt.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, October 02, 2013 @ 10:59:06 AM

Respond the way I have? What are you talking about?

It just seemed that you saw the score, didn't read a word, and wrote a comment. If I'm wrong, I'm sorry. But obviously, everyone's expectations were a LOT higher than mine.

And if an 8.3 is enough to inspire widespread disappointment, the 10-point scale is even more broken than I thought.

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Temjin001
Wednesday, October 02, 2013 @ 1:31:45 PM

your first response started with all caps. then from my statement as to why it didn't meet my expectations you assumed that I didn't read your review. Not sure how you arrived at that. That's all.

I hoped, as others did, this game would be something better. It's the expectation held for it that caused disappointment.

I agree about the 10 point scale thing. I'm not much a fan of that either.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, October 02, 2013 @ 3:10:37 PM

I just don't understand how all you can feel is disappointment after reading my review. To me, that means I failed.

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Cabalavatar1
Tuesday, October 01, 2013 @ 11:33:23 PM
Reply

I know it's a weird sentiment considering how much people spend on movies for 2.5 hours of entertainment, but if this game is $15 for 3-4 hours of gameplay, that's just not enough. I just want more...
However, because I love artistic and unique games, I'm sure that I'll pick it up eventually. If not, I can almost bet that Sony will pick it up for a PS Plus game or a discount.

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Cabalavatar1
Tuesday, October 01, 2013 @ 11:34:45 PM
Reply

I was excited for this game from the review--all the way up to the 3-4 hours of gameplay. I'm still excited, just less so.

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Ben Dutka PSXE [Administrator]
Wednesday, October 02, 2013 @ 1:23:50 AM

Journey was less than 2 hours long.

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PlatformGamerNZ
Wednesday, October 02, 2013 @ 1:28:39 AM
Reply

well i don't know about you but this gud be a really gud relaxing game for a wet day and it looks really gud too so thats a plus

happy gaming =)

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Beamboom
Wednesday, October 02, 2013 @ 3:42:41 AM

PlatformGamer, where are you from? I'm just curious. :)

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Gordo
Wednesday, October 02, 2013 @ 4:01:20 AM

New Zealand I expect... They mash the vowels there so fish and chips sounds like fush and chups. Explains why he spells good gud... :-)

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AcHiLLiA
Wednesday, October 02, 2013 @ 12:35:15 PM

Everytime I scroll past his/her name he/she gets a thumbdown always when I see it, weird maybe that's the case perhaps. I guess another person here just doesn't get the spelling.

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AcHiLLiA
Wednesday, October 02, 2013 @ 12:48:56 PM

Shortcut spelling, I know people who live far east who do that kind of spelling, it gets confusing but eventually I figure it out sometimes. And perhaps when he or she is on a smartphone, people tend to do that often over there as far as my experience.

Last edited by AcHiLLiA on 10/2/2013 12:51:54 PM

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___________
Wednesday, October 02, 2013 @ 5:37:02 AM
Reply

so this is another style over substance game?
sigh.
why do we always have to choose one or the other?
why cant games be beautifully artistic but also deep in gameplay and story?
journey and the unfinished swan perfect examples, games lorded for their artistic flair, but stopped playing them like a hour through because, well, just too simplistic and boring.
just moving, just flicking paint, is not a game.
you need a little more complexity and depth to keep people interested.

exact same problem the survival horror revival is facing.
outlast, amnesia, SCP, slender, all fantastically scary games, but again all boring to the point you cant play them for more than a hour.
absolutely love the premise of outlast, and it actually has some really good scares.
allot of games have become far too predictable, but its managed to break that barrier and whenever your expecting a scare it sits you down, says its ok your fine, then just as your relaxed, it makes you sh*t your pants.
but the scares, the suspence, is not enough when your sent on tedious fetch quest after tedious fetch quest after tedious fetch quest.
i swear to god if i ever ever hear from a game ever again you need to go find x generators to turn the power back on, i swear to god im nuking the whole planet!
come on its such a overdone boring cliche, lets bury it where it belongs, ie in the deepest darkest depths of hell never ever EVER to be seen EVER again!!!!!!!!

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Gordo
Wednesday, October 02, 2013 @ 2:39:39 PM

Journey was brilliant. If you didn't shed a tear or get emotional in the last 10 minutes then it is a shame.

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___________
Thursday, October 03, 2013 @ 10:31:58 AM

i dident say that, i said its a shame these types of games always have to be one sided.
games are not only about technology, story, emotions.
there also, you know, GAMES!
if there not fun, if theres no in depth complex gameplay, then there not games.

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WorldEndsWithMe
Wednesday, October 02, 2013 @ 10:53:41 AM
Reply

I'll take it for free on PSPlus :)

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tusunami
Thursday, October 03, 2013 @ 10:03:13 PM
Reply

I have not played it yet, due to my gigantic backlog of games . But I will play it & I think this game from reading the reviews is a masterpiece because the numerous elements to the game. From what i've read from the reviews that people are complaining because of the length of the game. But just like journey if a developer can deliver a solid product in half the time I feel they delivered a quality product & also like flower as well. All these games forthat matter were short but how the content was delivered was amazing.

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