Title: Rain World
Available On: PlayStation 4, PC
Publisher: Adult Swim
Official Site: rainworldgame.com
Release Date: 03-28-17
Where To Buy: PlayStation Store, Steam
Rain World is an exciting game. Until it’s not. What begins as solid platformer with a unique premise that demonstrates both the harshness and beauty of mother nature, slowly turns into a frustrating and repetitive exercise in survival that players have little control over.
You play as a character only known as “Slugcat” (yes, that would the cross between a slug and a cat you are thinking of), and navigate the obstacles of a beautifully ruined 2D ecosystem while trying to find enough food so you can hibernate before it rains. The ultimate goal is to return Slugcat to its family, as the creature was separated during a rainstorm. What follows is a challenging adventure to reunite Slugcat, while progressing through environmentally taxing levels with little resources and severely limited gameplay abilities.
At its most basic level, Rain World takes survival and couples it with stealth, while focusing on players’ skill. However, as I progressed in the game, “skill” started to feel a lot more like sheer, dumb luck; and after successfully getting Slugcat into hibernation, relief is the only thing I felt after completing increasingly difficult levels.
While rain is obviously one of the primary threats to Slugcat’s survival, there are plenty of other creatures and deadly plants lurking through the tunnels and ready to kill you at any moment. The lizard-like enemies (some pink, others green) are randomly generated and have the ability to fatally strike you with one hit; and although Slugcat can use objects it finds as weapons for defense, avoiding attacks is simply impossible all the time. The second Slugcat is attacked, it is game over and you will have to start from the beginning of the level again, inducing yet another eye roll from the player, or perhaps a thrown controller. The environments are extremely unforgiving, turning what started off as an enjoyable platformer into something tedious that I would not be inclined to pick up again.
Though there are enemy creatures lurking around, make no mistake: the rain is still ruthless (it isn’t called Rain World for no reason). There is a phenomenal sense of urgency that builds as Slugcat explores the area in search of food in order to return to the safe area of the hibernation chamber. If this is not accomplished before the timer runs out, a fierce downpour starts that starts the ground rumbling and practically makes the entire screen shake.
Once you hear that sound, it is best to accept that Slugcat is a goner and prepare to start the level over again (remember that controlling-throwing I mentioned…) Though working against the timer proved to be a challenge the more I progressed through the game, one of the biggest challenges I had with it was simply remembering there was a timer at all, as it is not readily visible on the screen. Rain World so effectively pulls you into the grimy, dark environment of the various ecosystems, that focusing on exploration, stealth, and survival can easily make you forget about the impending rains of death.
All of these elements would not be so frustrating if Rain World made it possible to actually learn from your mistakes. The randomized enemies in each system, some of which actually follow you through your own pipes, makes this unrealistic. Instead of memorizing pathways or even the layout of which rooms are dangerous so as to effectively prepare for them, Rain World brings the fight to you each time and gives you only one shot at escape or total evasion. While this keeps the game fresh each time, it is easy to find yourself in a difficult and inescapable situation several times, with the inability to use the environment for your success. It is here the “stealth” aspect of the game falls flat.
Rain World’s successes almost balance out its shortcomings. The environmental storytelling throughout the game gives it a refreshing quality, as Slugcat jumps on poles and slithers into pipes in a world that have been completely devastated by industrial waste and which has been plagued by torrential rain. Slugcat’s animations are noticeably fluid, as you glide and bend through tunnels, and attempt to evade the predators throughout the ecosystem. The graphics are also wonderfully reminiscent of 16-bit classics while adding its own unique flair to the platformer genre. The backgrounds in Rain World are also packed with detail that allows the game to really come alive; but unfortunately, the ecosystems and the predators work against the player too often for long-term enjoyment to be experienced.
Verdict: Rain World is a wonderfully endearing platformer, with great environmental storytelling at work throughout. Unfortunately, the harsh environments and relentless predators can easily turn off the player and turn what should be a fun, yet challenging experience into one of frustration.
- Environmental storytelling
- Endearing and unique graphics
- Harsh ecosystems
- Inability to learn from mistakes
- Survival tends to be based on luck, not skill