Rain preview: absorbing the world

Slated for a release this fall, one of the last games to bow out the PS3 is the quietly beautiful action-adventure Rain. Although its more methodical gameplay is a little slow to start, Rain's unique approach and melancholic atmosphere is ultimately its biggest draw. Seeing a girl with an invisible silhouette being chased by a ghostly creature, a boy embarks on a mission to rescue the girl. His chase leads him into a mysterious world where he too becomes invisible, only to be seen as a silhouette while in the seemingly never-ending rain of the European architecture-inspired world. focalbox Unaware of what brought the boy to this world and what's really happening, the story unfolds, accompanied by a soundtrack of subtly melodic piano arrangements, including Debussy's Clair de Lune. Strings of sentences flash across the screen--some along the path, others above doorway arches--as the player navigates through the misty cobblestone streets. Because neither the girl nor boy speaks, associate producer Dais Kawaguchi tells Shacknews, they chose to present the tale in this fashion, adding that vocal narration felt too "awkward." It's a choice that better lends itself to the wistful atmosphere, and circumvents any campiness that might have occurred with the introduction of Rain's adversaries: ghostly, elephant-like creatures that roam the streets and give chase if they spot the boy. He cannot fight these creatures--instead, he must climb wooden crates and utilize awnings or enter buildings to aviud the rain and effectively become invisible.

Rain looks and plays unlike most other games

Controlling the boy when he is completely invisible to the eye is a unique experience in and of itself, as the only ways to determine his location is by analyzing the surroundings and the placement of the boy's wet footprints. In one covered hallway, I tipped over a wooden stool and shifted the placement of a picnic table and trashcan. The concept of invisibility is impressively well thought out, and most importantly, feels very natural. If the boy remains in the rain too long, however, the ghostly elephant creatures are quick to pursue and attack. The latter resulting in this Game Over screen: "The boy was swallowed by the darkness." BOOM video 15394 Initially the challenge of circumventing the ghostly creatures is interesting, but after about the fourth or so encounter, I started hoping to see more puzzles. "It's a little bit slower [in the beginning]," Kawaguchi admits, "but as you progress, there's a little more action to it." He adds that they chose a slower start to Rain because they "want players to understand the environment." Towards the end of the hands-on demo, I saw a hint of this building challenge, having to bait two of the ghostly enemies to destroy a wooden awning blocking the path. Despite mild qualms with gameplay, Rain’s world has a certain haunting appeal that grows over time. Its carefully crafted beauty translates into game mechanics themselves, promising to close the book on PS3 with quite an interesting note.