Rain World (Playstation 4 Review)
It’s hard to pinpoint a comfortable category to slide Rain World into. It seems to segment itself into minute scenarios of platforming, puzzling and survival: each taking their own breath of life within Rain World‘s sprawling canvas. I’m doubling down on my own ambiguity towards Rain World here by saying that I’m not sure how I feel about it as a whole. With some fairly obtuse mechanics in place that quickly shun me away, only to be drawn back into by Rain World‘s own charming allure, I’m simply at odds with myself while playing this uniquely crafted title.
As Rain World begins players are given a bit of backstory to our sluggish protagonist as he is swept up by the hands of fate and dealt a cruel blow by Mother Nature–a storm hits and our companion is now separated from the rest of his family in a steel jungle of uncertainty. Stranded and lost in an unforgivable world, our Slugcat friend must now survive and make his way back to his family in anyway he knows how.
So far, nothing seems amiss: simple backstory and plot to set players on the forward track, little in the way to hold them back. That is until you fumble your way through some of the opening environments that Rain World has on offer. For the most part, everything is left up to the player to understand for themselves. A few button prompts here and there get you going but the discovery of the more in-depth mechanics and navigation is left upto your own ingenuity. While some games take great strides in informing the player through scenes of dialogue, narrative exposition tutorials on button prompts, others forgo them altogether; creating a learning experience with reward and circumstance like no other.
Rain World is on the other side of that equation–harnessing very little in the way of teaching the player what to do leaving Rain World open to interpretation. It wasn’t long before I started getting frustrated by not knowing where to go or even what I should be doing. I knew I had to find the rest of my family, but it was unbeknownst to me of how I could accomplish that.
As you gradually proceed through Rain World‘s harsh scenery of rotted and overgrown environments–a dark and dilapidated world that is home to nothing but its own dismay–you’ll begin to unravel the convoluted mechanisms before you, nature’s trinity if you will, to eat, sleep and survive. And that’s Rain World at its core; nature vs. nature, predator vs. prey.
To survive our Slugcat companion (yes, he is a strange animal-mollusc hybrid) must eat anything that is tougher skinned or more aggressive than he is. Vegetation, insects and even bats are on the menu. Watching this cute and cuddly creature rip and devour a bat, tearing wing from wing, strengthens our understanding of nature in that everything has its darker side; that even the cutest of creatures bare teeth.
And it’s this survival trait that will keep you going in Rain World, as eating your unwary prey will add one blip to your “food meter” (I don’t know the actual name of it as nothing is explained) and once you’ve gathered enough food, players must now find a place to hibernate as eventually the world our Slugcat negotiates will get ravaged by storms and the only way to survive is to dig deep and wait it out.
These burrows act as in-game checkpoints so that if you die, you don’t need to start over from scratch, at least in terms of progression. This is not true for Slugcat’s “level meter”, the obscurity that rises with every successful hibernation attempt and falls with every death, which will elude many to begin with but is actually the key to making any headway in Rain World. This glowing glyph meter is, in essence, a keyring. The more you level up, the more areas you can explore. Dying however, depletes this meter gradually, meaning that if you want to succeed, you’re going to have to be a master of survival. Even if you opt to save your game and quit for some R&R, coming back to Rain World you’ll be surprised to know that all your progress in terms of your level meter will have dropped. Leaving you to hunt for food and grind your levels up all over again, which can be particularly difficult as food doesn’t regenerate.
All of this can feel rather weighted by the fact you’re accompanied by a time limit too. As if surviving the harsh post-apocalyptic wastes of Rain World, dodging harmful vegetation and snarly toothed monsters wasn’t enough, this abhorrently attached time limit is what finally done me in. With little information to go on and no clear direction in which to head, you’ll often find yourself lost and out of luck with no food/nowhere to sleep, resulting in death after death. With no headway made, you’d simply think you’re going the wrong way or you weren’t fast enough to reach your goal. Unfortunately, the combination of time, food, a maze like structure and a lack of information makes for an unrewarding, repetitive experience. And it was with this realisation that I soon understood that I was no longer having fun. Simply wavering on for the sake of this review.
It’s as I said before, Rain World has me at odds with myself on why I do and don’t like it. The cute and cuddly protagonist is adorable to watch as he fumbles his way though the environments of Rain World. Scavenging for food, uncovering secrets and outmaneuvering bigger and badder foes is exhilarating to an extent. The decaying world itself invites intrigue as you slowly but surely make progress. However, being held back by a time limit, no information to go on and de-leveling as you die feels unjust.
With each step I take forward is two in which I step back. A part of me know’s that I want to enjoy what Rain World has to offer–and a small part of me does enjoy it to an extent–but my mind can’t settle. Rain World is difficult and unrewarding unless you’re willing to persevere through unforgiving trials of time and sheer luck, then you’ll likely find a plain frustrating experience. That said, those who don’t waver are bound to find a gem within the rough.