Developer: Frostwood Interactive, 2Awesome Partners
Publisher: Frostwood Interactive, 2 Awesome Studios
Genre: Adventure Platformer
Available on: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Version Tested: PS4
Official Site: PlayStation Store
Release Date: July 21, 2020 (PS4)
When you first load up Rainswept, the main screen displays the subtitle “A Murder Mystery Adventure”. The game itself though clearly tries to be much more than that. However, even despite its honest attempts, it fails to be anything more than an average indie title.
Detective Business in the World of Rainswept
The game is a traditional 2D adventure game, putting you in the shoes of Detective Michael Stone. As Stone, you must explore the town of Pineview, interviewing suspects and witnesses, collecting clues, and unraveling the main plot as you go. The main plot in question has you finding the truth behind the murder of a young couple who were shot inside their home. All the while, Stone himself struggles to come to terms with his troubled past…
Rainswept is simple to pick up and play. The controls are designed to be very simple, with objects to interact with being easy to spot. Even accessing the notebook and map are as simple as a single button press. All in all, the game’s control scheme is accessible to both players experienced or novice, making it appealing for a wide audience.
However, its simplicity may turn off some players. The game itself is just as easy as its control scheme, and may better be described as a glorified visual novel than an actual game. The entirety of the game revolves around interacting with the right characters, asking questions, and examining certain items. Despite that, it so often feels that the game is holding you tightly by the hand that ‘challenge’ is non-existent.
Simple As Pie
Each of the days you spend in the little town of Pineview has you and your partner, officer Amy Blunt, go over who needs to be spoken to and what needs to be done. The problem with this is that it means you rarely get to do any detective work yourself. No critical thinking is necessary for this game because you’re essentially led from story point to story point. Things were so clear from the outset that I seldom needed to use the game’s notebook feature, which includes story details and daily tasks (which usually amount to talking to a bunch of people).
Even the game’s choices – which simply amount to ways you can respond to characters – don’t significantly affect Rainswept‘s narrative. This isn’t as bad as it sounds, since being able to choose how you react to certain characters and situations at least gives you some input into the game. But there’s rarely a good or bad choice – and when there is, the game will guide you to the good one in its own way. So, no thinking is required.
From the outset, Rainswept is a simple-looking game. This is by no means a complete disadvantage to it though. The painted South Park-esque cut-out characters and backgrounds have a unique charm to them. However, those who are fussy about graphics may not find it satisfactory. The game is very story-heavy and the characters’ lack of visible emotion may prove ineffective, depending on your outlook. For a game that is emotion-heavy story-wise (or at least, attempts to be), lack of clear emotion on the characters’ faces can be limiting.
Thankfully, the game attempts to make up for this limitation with its soundtrack. The soundtrack in question consists of a set of piano-led ballads and ambient soundscapes that are, simply put, gorgeous. They create an incredible sense of atmosphere and mystery around the small town of Pineview and greatly enhance certain scenes. One might even go so far as to say that they are Rainswept‘s best asset and the one thing that helps suck you into its melancholy world despite its simplistic visual style.
A Question of Story in Rainswept
But of course, visual style and music aside, Rainswept is ultimately a classic adventure game reminiscent of Broken Sword and Monkey Island – and therefore, the story is where the main focus is. Without going into spoilers, it’s…a mixed bag. The game essentially has you going between two different timelines – the present where Detective Stone is investigating the case and the past, which depicts Chris and Diane’s complicated relationship. Both timelines cover different themes in the narrative.
Admittedly, the relationship between Chris and Diane is one of the most complex and ambitiously written in videogames. There is a clear attempt to depict a somewhat realistic human relationship between the introverted and emotionally-confused Diane and the relatively extroverted but reflective Chris. While quite deep and compelling, many scenes are marred by awkward dialogue and, as discussed earlier, the lack of visible expression doesn’t help things.
The same can be said of Detective Stone’s story. The game gives him a cliched ‘mysterious, troubled past’ which honestly isn’t all that intriguing. I don’t intend on spoiling the story for potential first-timers, but the resolution to Stone’s story is just as cliched as its set-up and offers no bearing on the main plot. Ultimately, I was underwhelmed by the conclusion.
Rainswept‘s Attempt at Greatness
It is perhaps a saving grace then, that Rainswept can easily be completed in just over four hours. Now, short games are by no means a bad thing – it just means they need to offer intriguing content. In my playthrough of Rainswept, although each discovery did drive you forwards, waiting to see what happened next, the payoff was always disappointing.
But hey, let’s look at Rainswept from a fair, birds-eye perspective. At its heart, it is an ambitious indie title evidently made by people passionate about the adventure genre. Merely from a nostalgic perspective, it’s great to see those old adventure tropes of examining items and interacting with characters present. But the game’s simplicity and lack of challenge ultimately prevent it from being great, and its short story lives far from its potential.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some great scenes and depictions of complex relationships in this game – but they could’ve existed inside a better game.
Verdict: Rainswept has an intriguing concept, delving deeply into a complex relationship and attempting to hook players with a ‘whodunit’ mystery. But ultimately, the uninteresting characters, lack of challenge, and disappointing resolutions make this a rather average title at best.
- Solid attempt at complex relationships
- Simple and straightforward controls
- Beautiful music
- Simplistic art style
- Lack of challenge
- Awkward dialogue
- Underwhelming plot