As the technology used to build video games becomes ever more powerful and visual high-fidelity becomes increasingly obtainable, creative minds look for additional ways to further their means of expression.
The ability to convey or elicit emotion is becoming increasingly important to a growing audience but while even the most high-profile and lauded examples of such titles – Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Braid, A Shadow’s Tale and Journey – rarely trouble the mainstream charts, their existence is an affirmation that the medium is growing in breadth, depth, and maturity.
It’s what makes initiatives like Sony Japan Studio’s PlayStation C.A.M.P all the more important. The Creative Audition Mash-up Project was established to identify and draw on creative talent both within and outside of the industry in order to create original and eclectic new IP. With a unique suite of titles that include Tokyo Jungle, Echocrome and What Did I Do To Deserve This, My Lord!?, it’s fair to say that the project is so far delivering on its mission statement.
It’s from this fertile bed of talent that Rain has sprung. Directed by Yuki Ikeda of Acquire (creators of the Tenchu franchise), Rain’s focus is on a boy, a girl and a mysterious world where it is always night and always raining. Its dark and atmospheric opening chapter serves as an introduction to the mute characters, as the young boy spies the girl from afar and pursues her for seemingly no other reason than that she appears to be like him: lost and alone.
There is no dialogue, just gestures of the children so that we might convey a feeling of story book.”
Rain’s quiet introduction to its central characters and mechanics is complemented by lines of text overlaid on the tall, imposing buildings. Each serves to progress the narrative, introduce a new concept or provide hints of where to go to next. As you learn to understand the telltale signs that help you to navigate the world, Rain slowly draws back its guiding hand to let you begin to explore its world alone. As Ikeda notes, “There is no dialogue, just gestures of the children so that we might convey a feeling of story book.”
The relatively simple puzzle-platforming mechanics that feature early on are juxtaposed with tense moments where the nightmarish apparitions of Rain’s world must be avoided or fled from. Here, the fixed camera angles occasionally offer a deliberately obtuse angle or induce a feeling of claustrophobia.
In this respect, Rain is curiously reminiscent of early Resident Evil and Silent Hill titles, and while it has none of those games explicit horror or outlandish gore, it nonetheless introduces a sense of trepidation through a lack of control combined with a feeling of impotence as the boy is unarmed. His only weapon against his pursuers is to lure them into traps, such as when they charge him and knock down rickety scaffolding, which serves as both a means of dispatching the aggressor and creating a path to climb atop a higher ledge.
Rain is curiously reminiscent of early Resident Evil and Silent Hill titles."
Even in Rain’s opening chapter, where the boy only catches glimpses of the girl and the peril she is in, there are strong hints of an Ico-like relationship mechanic at play. Ikeda confirms that there will be a large degree of interplay between the two later in the game.
“At one point in the game the boy and girl meet and then they travel together to escape the night,” the director reveals. “From that point on they have to help one another with interaction to solve the game mechanics together to proceed.
“The dynamic of the game from that point changes, so while at the beginning you’re alone you do meet with the girl and progress together to escape the world of rain.”
It’s clear that the effectiveness of the mechanical interaction between boy and girl will determine how enjoyable it is to play, while the portrayal of this relationship will be pivotal to determining whether Rain is capable of conveying an emotional narrative. The only gripe in this regard is that a few early deaths during the opening chapter expose you to the same lines of narrative text several times and dull their impact through repetition.
At first we want players to feel lonely, lost and scared."
Rain has the makings of another critical success for one of Sony’s most offbeat and creative studios. As a PSN title it needn’t be lost in the shadow of the colossal titles of the coming months and can instead offer a quiet alternative to those loud and empowering blockbusters, as Ikeda puts it “At first we want players to feel lonely, lost and scared but as they progress we want players to have hopes and enjoy the atmosphere and journey with the characters together.”
It might not set the charts alight, but Rain could is set to reinforce the notion that the industry and its audience values diversity and emotional resonance just as highly as iteration and spectacle.
Source : ign[dot]com