PlayStation C.A.M.P., the minds behind Echochrome, have created a wonderful single player experience that shouldn't be missed; and at only $15, it can't be missed.
The premise of rain had my interested piqued as soon as I heard about it several months ago. In rain, you control a young boy who is stricken with an illness and is bed-ridden with a fever. One night, he peers out his window into the seemingly endless dreary rainfall. He sees the ghostly silhouette of a young girl. Curious, he steps outside, only to discover that the girl is being pursued by similarly ghostly-looking monsters. It's then that he realizes he too is a transparent silhouette, at least while he is in the rain. When standing underneath an awning, inside a building, or otherwise out of the falling rain, he (and the girl) transition to being completely invisible, other than the wet footprints they leave behind.
This simple gameplay mechanic is what makes up the crux of rain's gameplay. The young boy and girl are physically powerless against the monsters. Indeed, one hit, or touch, from a monster spells an instant game-over. The player must use the environment to their advantage in a handful of ways to survive. Eventually, the two work together to solve more complex, yet still easy, puzzles to keep one step ahead of the monsters. One monster in particular, simply referred to as The Unknown, is relentless in his pursuit of the two. The scenarios that the player finds himself in with The Unknown nearby are surprisingly tense. Sometimes you have to out-run the creature, other times you have to remain hidden or still, but usually avoiding The Unknown requires some quick thinking, yet also patience. The encounters with The Unknown are plentiful and all well done.
The ultimate reason for traversing this dangerous, rainy night (set in what appears to be an early 1900s European town) is kept hidden until near the end. At the outset, it's obvious that you need to pursue the girl and try to help her survive. After that, the objective is to simply survive the night and reach the beckoning light and its mysterious source. Only through working together can the boy and girl expect to avoid being consumed the pursuing darkness. Nothing about rain is particularly hard; you'll never get lost and there is very rarely a time when you don't know what you need to do and how to do it. Many puzzles have a pop-up reminder in the HUD that you can press Select for a Hint. I never did this, so I don't know how detailed the hints are. My take on the difficulty, or lack thereof, is that the developers were wise to choose giving the player a stunning and memorable six hour experience rather than put up roadblocks to what is really a special journey and story. Although nameless, speechless (there is literally not a single spoken word in this game), and practically faceless, I was surprised at how quickly I became genuinely interested in the well-being of the boy and girl.
In conjunction with the clever, but not difficult puzzles, rain is further accessible thanks to its control scheme. One odd note -- the control scheme pops up once when you start a new game and never again. I thought that was odd, but it's a non-issue. That said, the left stick is for movement like any typical third person adventure. Pressing Circle is used to examines objects, although only immediate, necessary examinations of objects or situations are made. X is for jumping, as there is a considerable amount of platforming to be done, and (holding) Square is for running, which besides being the most efficient way to get around is required during certain scripted escape sequences.
As with the amount and type of objects you can interact with the, the level design is similarly "to the point." At times it looks like there is an alternate path, but it quickly dead-ends. However, after completing the game once, you can replay any of the eight chapters to find (twenty-four) collectible memories, and these are hidden in these slightly-off-the-path areas.
The accessibilty and simplicity of rain's gameplay gave me reason for some concern during the first couple of hours, but I came to embrace it because I realized I was having a great time with what I was experiencing, not what I was missing. Were rain an eight-hour-plus adventure, I could see these design choices becoming a potential negative factor, but rain is smart in that it draws you in right away and keeps you hooked for its appreciably brief duration. In other words, rain won't overstay its welcome, and there is reason and interest enough to go back again to find the unlocked collectibles.
rain further benefits from a well-designed presentation. Graphically, it isn't a technical marvel, but it looks very good and I had no technical glitches, major or minor, of any kind. I loved the use of story-progressing text on the walls that appeared as you crossed certainly invisible thresholds. These bits of text were the right length to be informative, but not distracting in the least. I would have appreciated a little more effort in making more interesting environments, though. There is a fair amount of re-use that makes some areas feel a little too similar to other areas. There is an overabundance of building materials, like scaffolding, wooden planks, crates, and so forth used as well. The audio presentation is rather special, utilizing only effects and an excellent orchestral score. The soundtrack is obviously not a lively, bombastic score, but a very dreary, sullen one instead. It fits the atmosphere just right. The very short piano cue sound played at scripted areas is unsettling and slightly chilling, exactly as it was meant to be. Combined, the presentation of rain is great.
With that, lets get to the summary...