[Review] Rain World

ESRB:E10+
ONLINE:N/A
INSTALL:1.75GB
RELEASE DATE:March 28, 2017
PLATFORM:PC/Steam, Playstation 4, Xbox One
PUBLISHER:Adult Swim Games
DEVELOPER:Videocult
ONLINE PASS:N/A

Foreword


First and foremost, thank you to Evolve PR & Adult Swim Games for providing me with a code for Rain World!

I have a confession to make, though – generally, I like to complete games before I try to review them – at least the story.

Sometimes, though, I can’t do that. This is one of those times.

Much like Ace Combat Infinity, I wasn’t able to fully complete the story of Rain World in time for the review. However, I have spent a fair amount of time with the game – about 2 full days, actually – and feel confident in my opinion of the overall title.

One last note: This review is based on the Playstation 4 version of the game.


Gameplay Video



Story


As I mentioned above, I – unfortunately – did not get to actually complete the story.

That said, I did get to experience some of it – and I like what I see so far.

Like a lot of indie games, the story here isn’t exactly “in-your-face” – you won’t be getting minutes upon minutes of exposition being told to you by a narrator or other NPCs.

It’s very subtle. Very simple.

Most of the story is told through beautifully drawn animatics – simple scenes with slight motion, but no real animation.

The story follows the plight of a small Slugcat that manages to get separated from its family during one of the brutal rain storms this world is home to.

Your job is to try and help Slugcat find its way back, braving the harsh environments, multitude of deadly creatures and lethal rain.

This is also one of those titles where a lot of the story is told to you in the world itself. Again, not through dialogue or words on screen, but through the look of the levels and designs of the creatures. As you progress, you begin to learn more and more about what happened to this world.


Presentation


Beautiful

The animations in particular are some of the best I’ve seen in a game like this. The way Slugcat’s tail will droop over the edge of a platform if it’s hanging off, the stalking animations of certain predators, the rain as it beats the Earth into submission before finally claiming you.

Videocult went with a simple 2D aesthetic for Rain World, reminiscent of titles like Fez or Titan Souls, that uses a blend of procedural and physics based animations.

The game looks amazing – the animations are all top-notch, character, location and creature designs are great. Slugcat is super adorable – even when being horribly, horribly murdered!

I honestly can’t really find anything to complain about here – other than sometimes, due to the nature of physics based animation, some things can get a little wonky. There was one moment, for instance, where I managed to pin one of the lizards to a wall with a spear. It didn’t die, and it proceeded to continue to try and get off the wall, but it was in a position where it was slightly stuck between the wall and a pipe – its animation freaked out quite a bit. Nothing nightmarish – but it proceeded to flop around and wig out.

Other than that minor issue, there really isn’t a flaw with the game’s overall look.


Gameplay


Rain World is a 2D survival-stealth-exploration-platformer.

That may sound like a weird combo – like a lot of indie titles do – but it manages to work out really well.

Rain World is harsh and dangerous. If you aren’t careful, you will end up dinner, or dead.

The main gameplay of Rain World revolves around Slugcat exploring the harsh world around it, trying to find food while avoiding becoming dinner for the dangerous creatures of the area – or being pummeled to death and drowned in the extremely brutal rains of the world.

Early on in the game, you actually have a little friend that can help guide you in regards to what you should be doing. It pops up and shows little holograms, giving you visual guides for controls and little hints as to where food is, and where danger may lurk.

This friend won’t be with you forever – and you can also choose to scare it away early on if you wish. Honestly, it’s a great way to handle the tutorial/handholding early game mechanics.

It’s a helpful little creature that is also completely optional if you choose. A great way to introduce players to mechanics.

Creatures can, and often should, be avoided – Slugcat isn’t a fighter by any means. You can pick up various items around the world – spears, rocks/bricks, explosive plants – but these things are meant more to get enemies away from you, rather than close-quarters combat.

Slugcat will often die in a single hit, being carried away then by the creature that killed you as food.

Thankfully, you have many options for dealing with and getting around these creatures. Pipes, tunnels, jumps, rolls – Slugcat is good at getting around and getting away.

Just keep this in mind, though: Some creatures can also use your own tricks. Don’t think travelling through a pipe to another screen is an instant getaway.

The different creatures also each have their own abilities and ways of hunting.

For example – the first enemies you come across will be Green and Magenta lizards. Just these two enemy types alone have very different hunting styles.

The green lizards are super durable – almost to the point of being unkillable. However, they’re also kind of stupid – they can’t climb and they get easily distracted. Throw a rock at a wall away from you, and they’ll likely go after the noise instead.

Magenta lizards are much more dangerous as they can climb obstacles much like Slugcat – meaning you have far fewer options of escape from them.

Play smart, and just maybe the enemies will do some of your work for you.

One of the coolest things you can do, is get the lizards to fight each other. The world is an ecosystem – every creature is predator and prey for another. Once you learn what creatures eat what other creatures, you can use that to your advantage and lure them into traps to either kill them, or get around them.

The rain, however…the rain is another story.

The rain is insane. If you don’t finish scavenging fast enough – prepare to drown.

There is no avoiding the rain.

You have a hard time limit for a stage – which you can check in the lower left of the screen by pressing and holding the R1 button, or the spacebar on PC. Your time is represented by a ring of circles around the stage symbol near your food bar. Once that ring ticks down its last pip – your Slugcat life’s end is imminent.

If you haven’t gotten enough food to hibernate, you have a very, very short amount of time to fill up your food bar and get to your safe haven before the rain comes and floods the entire world – when that happens, it’s game over.

If you continue to hold down R1/spacebar, you can also bring up a map – which is super useful as these areas are quite large and the map can also show you where creatures you can eat are.

In regards to the food bar – that’s your ultimate goal in a stage. Eat food – berries, certain plants and smaller creatures can all be consumed to fill the bar.

Once you’ve consumed enough food – you need at least 4 pips filled on the bar – you can head into a safe hibernation zone on the map. These zones are marked with a special square symbol. Simply climb into the pipe leading to it, snuggle into the cozy space and the level will complete, moving you on to the next.

The catch? Once you’ve eaten the food in an area, it doesn’t come back. You need to actually explore the world and find new sources of food.

On top of finding food to survive, you can also find special rare flowers in the levels. Now, I’m not sure what they all do – in fact, I could only figure out one of the two I found.

If you happen to find a golden flower on your travels – eat it. This flower acts as a continue so that you can restart your current stage without losing progress.

Now, I’m not entirely sure what progress actually is – after you complete a level, you’re greeted with an odd screen that has various symbols on the left. After completion of a level, the list of symbols will roll and the next in line becomes active.

It’s not super clear what this actually means – whether it’s some kind of rank, or a stage progression – I do know that it ties into progression in the world. Some areas, for instance, won’t open up in the world until you reach a certain point.

This is my biggest gripe that I’ve found – it could be much clearer what these symbols actually mean, especially since they seem to be pivotal to the actual progression of the game.

And the reason this is an issue? Rain World is extremely punishing and unforgiving.

Beneath the cutesy facade of Slugcat, lies a harsh gameplay system that is not ashamed to punish players harshly for mistakes. Early on, your mistakes can cost you dearly – to the point where you can actually lock yourself out of progression.

Those symbols I mentioned earlier? While I don’t know exactly what they mean, I do know that they are tied to progression. As I mentioned before, if you die, you lose progress unless you’ve consumed that golden flower (Which will respawn at the last place you died, should you do so after using it.)

Within the world, you’ll find locked off areas behind gates with symbols on the walls – these symbols correlate to your rank. If you aren’t at the proper rank, you can’t get through the door.

Coupling the need to be at certain levels to progress, and the fact that food doesn’t really respawn means that a series of mistakes can be quite costly.

Thankfully, the devs at least knew that this system would be harsh, as there is a “Reset Progress” button in the options. This can be a life saver in the early game.

Once you do finally manage to reach the highest rank, an option will appear the next time you hibernate, called “Passage”. Doing so will end your game and save your progress – if you made it to a new area before doing this, you will then be able to start at that area whenever you want and continue exploring.

Overall, though, I enjoy the way Rain World plays – the system can certainly be harsh, especially at the start, but once you get used to it and understand it, it’s not quite so bad. Much like the Soulsborne series, or nearly any roguelike, progression is mostly skill-based. The better and smarter you play, the further you’ll get and the more you’ll discover in the world.


Replay Value


This is probably where the game falls the shortest. From what I can see, there doesn’t really seem to be much outside of finishing the main storyline.

The levels are all premade – so there’s no random element there. The creatures are pretty random in the way they act, so another playthrough of an area may yield the need of devising a new strategy to get through it, but other than that, not much will be different.

On the trophy/achievement side of things – I can’t really say. I haven’t earned a single trophy yet in my entire playtime, so I can’t speak on how difficult they may or may not be. That said, most of them sound very much like rewards for simply completing areas/levels.

However, I can’t really judge the replay value here until I finish the story – maybe there’s a hard mode, or some other kind of unlockable that I just don’t know about yet.


Final Verdict


Overall, while I haven’t yet been able to finish the story, I have enjoyed my time with the game. I have enjoyed what little bit of the story I’ve experienced, and how it’s delivered.

Certainly, there’s room for improvement in Rain World – the systems at play here are difficult to get used to, and I can certainly see that being offputting to a new player, or someone not used to this style of game.
But it’s the kind of system that feels rewarding once you learn it.

That said – Videocult could definitely do better on the side of actually explaining how the game works. I don’t mind obtuse games – and while it doesn’t make the game unplayable (After all, I made progress after just spending time with the game) not explaining a critical component of the core gameplay is a failing that can’t really be overlooked.

It’s something to keep in mind while playing.

The Verdict: I can honestly say that the game is worth the $20 price tag [ If you have Playstation Plus, it’s actually $15.99 as of this writing – even more of a steal! ] and certainly worth trying out – especially if you love indie games.


Closing Thoughts


Adult Swim Games has been on a roll as of late with these indie releases, and I hope this trend continues – because everything they’ve published so far has been amazing.

Rain World is a great game marred slightly by an obtuse, unclear progression mechanic. If you can get past that one hurdle and figure out how the game works, then you can certainly have a great time, and will really be able to appreciate what Rain World sets out to do.

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PROS CONS
  • Beautiful presentation.

  • Overall mechanics are simple to learn and easy to get used to.
  • The game can be a little unclear about what you have to do at times.

  • The symbols at the end of a stage are also unclear as to what they really mean.
  • FINAL VERDICT
    Click here or on the verdict image to the left for full disclosure of what these ratings mean!

    About James Headrick

    James is an aspiring game reviewer that plays primarily on the Playstation 3 & 4. He also works freelance as a graphic designer, doing print and branding based design.
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