Rain, the latest from Sony's Japan Studio and PlayStation CAMP, falls into that last category. The PSN game starts off promisingly enough, with a watercolor cinematic telling the story of a young boy who follows a girl through a magical door into a world where the rain never stops and the day never dawns. The girl is chased by the Unknown, ghostly beasts with a Terminator-esque determination to hunt her down, and so the boy casts himself in the role of savior and races along after her. The city in which the boy finds himself is beautiful in its darkness, a vague memory of the world he remembers, with shadowy streets, elongated alleys and looming buildings. Rain keeps pushing you forward, however, leaving little incentive or time to explore. There's a very clear line through the environment, and Rain wants you to keep trudging along it, so it can better spin out its tale via the sentences and phrases that artistically emerge to reveal the sparse story line by line.
The unceasing precipitation not only provides Rain's moody atmosphere, but also its most interesting feature: The boy, girl, and creatures are invisible and can only be seen when they're in the rain, disappearing again as soon as they duck under cover. It's a simple mechanic that anyone who's ever been caught without an umbrella can appreciate, and it allows for an unusual twist on hiding in plain sight. You can walk right past the Unknown, so long as you're dry, though they can do the same to you. It works perfectly well, but it's an idea that never develops as fully as it could, this shared space out of the rain where both pursuer and pursued can vanish, yet remain safe.
You will die and retry a lot as you play Rain, oftentimes despite the fact that you know exactly what you need to do. Rain's camera will frequently fly far back to better let you appreciate the stunning scenery, leaving the children very tiny on the screen. The forced perspective can make jumps and angles difficult to discern, and it's frustratingly easy to simply walk off a ledge because you couldn't quite see it correctly. Moving around is even more aggravating when you're invisible, though Rain does make a conscious effort to help you see where you are with wet footprints, clouds of dust that billow with each step or objects that rustle as you walk past.
The puzzles become slightly more complex once you finally manage to reach the girl and can begin to help each other out, but Rain stays disappointingly one note from start to finish. Certain elements of Rain are highly successful: The streets and buildings of the city are lovely, the music is exceptional, and the humanoid Unknown, searching the air with a long, needlelike finger – and clubbing down walls with an enormous second arm – is a genuinely scary foe. Rain is also careful never to become overtly sad, instead sitting in an area of melancholy that's oddly appealing.
As a work of art, Rain masterfully captures and maintains a mood that will speak to players, but as a game, it's soggy and unrewarding. It's also quite short, so if you'd like to explore which side of Rain appeals to you more, you can do so in an afternoon – rain or shine.
This review is based on a PSN download of Rain, provided by Sony.
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