Eurogamer Expo 2013: Rain hands-on
Videogame conventions are stressful affairs, all headache-inducing neon maelstroms of forty inch plasma screens, each one vying for your attention amongst a crowd of similar looking plasma screens. For the past three years at Eurogamer Expo, Sony has provided the perfect antidote to the predominance of frenetic, action-orientated titles on show. In 2011 it was Journey, in 2012 it was The Unfinished Swan, and this year their soon-to-be-released PSN title Rain was that welcome and very promising refreshment.
That Rain’s theme song is Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune should tell you something about its tone. There’s a light melancholy to its simple boy meets girl tale, one told through both the muting desaturation of its mostly grey art style and its simple mechanical premise, which is plucked straight from H. G Wells’ 1897 novel, The Invisible Man.
You play as a young, unnamed boy, who, upon first viewing the silhouette of an invisible girl on what looks like a rainy Parisian back alley circa 1960, turns invisible himself. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably spent many hours daydreaming about the mischief you could get up to if you were granted invisibility, but this young fellow seems to have no such appetite for misconduct. His only desire is to reach that mysterious silhouette, so she becomes his guiding beacon through these puddle-lined alleyways.
When surrounded by precipitation, your otherwise invisible figures are given a ghostly outline, but when out of it, only soggy footprints or disturbed scenery give any indication as to where you are. It’s a visual and mechanical twist that would seem to lend itself to a variety of interesting scenarios, but this short, ten minute demonstration suggested that Rain will largely be a stealth adventure, with players having to utilise the shelter of covered areas to hide from a variety of monsters.
These creatures took the form of skeletal dogs. Themselves invisible, there’s a skittish game of cat and mouse born from the fact that they can, at any time, sneak out from shelter and take you by surprise. It wasn’t too hard, however, to manipulate them, much as Tom does with Jerry, as their AI amounts to a simple sphere of audio-visual perception and direct, unthinking attacks.
Drawing your pursuer’s attention over to a specific area was the crux of the one simple puzzle. Collapsing a wooden platform into a climbable box required the boney monsters to dash headlong into its supporting structures, which they would only do once alerted and enticed there. It was simple enough, but the one niggling worry that Rain left me with came from its God of War-style fixed camera angles during this sequence. The cut from one viewpoint to another left me a little disorientated, which didn’t help when being rushed by a rabid attacker, and this lead to a few re-starts that felt unfair.
Its pre-determined viewpoints may have been troublesome, but the short time I spent splashing about in Rain was refreshing. I’m not convinced it’ll turn out to be as interesting as either Journey or The Unfinished Swan, but there’s potential in a single, furtive idea here that could very well translate into one of 2013’s most touching adventures.