Short Version: This game is a tragedy. Everything I see in it yells excellence, but the moment I actually start playing, I hate it. The mechanics and the controls are completely at odds with the exploration you are encouraged to do, leaving me frustrated, angry and worst of all, bored. It gets more a lot more interesting later on, but it’s not worth the agony of dying a hundred times in the same area just to figure out the basics. Unless you are the kind of person that gets some sort of validation or sense of superiority by beating incredibly hard games, stay away.
Long Version: Not everything is as it seems at face value. At first I thought this would be a Limbo-style platformer with a simple story to follow. In reality, it was everything except that. Instead, it is a brutally hard survival game that tells you to explore, but also does everything possible to stop you from doing that. It’s frustrating, because everything other than the gameplay is incredibly beautiful and full of soul. The music, graphics and even the character animations are all outstanding, but I can’t enjoy it when I’m dying in the same spot for hours on end.
Basically, Rain World is a story of a slug cat that gets separated from its family and has to find ways to survive in very harsh environments. One of the harshest things to find is the rain itself, which pours down in an almost apocalyptic fashion. No matter what, you’ll die from it, so you’ll need to hide in a special room and hibernate before your time is up. Of course, this means you’ll have to explore, hunt for food and watch out for predators. Other than that, there really is no explicit goal to reach other than to stay alive and fill out the map.
This already creates a problem where I didn’t really want to wander off too far away from my shelter, but I needed to do the opposite to progress. Plus, there’s no way for me to know what constitutes as a shelter and what doesn’t, let alone trying to find one at all before my time runs out. There’s always a ton of tunnels and alternate routes to go through, so it’s easy to get lost and not make it back before the rain kills you. What make matters worse are the frustrating controls that either inhibit or pad out your progress.
Basically, moving around in Rain World is like trying to escape a pool of quicksand. Despite how much the game encourages you to explore, the movement doesn’t allow you to do this comfortably. Your little slug cat character moves very slowly, has an incredibly short jump and is more vulnerable than a marshmallow in front of a fire. I’m not saying that games are bad if they are not power fantasies, but they really set it up so you can’t really catch a break at any time before the next thing comes to kill you.
It also doesn’t help that the aforementioned jump is so bad that any kind of platforming segment will be met with multiple tries and unintentional falls. Even though the backgrounds are gorgeous, it’s very difficult for you to tell what’s in the foreground. There were many times where I thought I could grab on to something, but it was actually in the background, leading me to fall and have to slowly climb my way back again; that is if a monster doesn’t kill me first.
On top of all of that, you need to fill out a hunger meter to be able to survive through your hibernation, or else you die. You can either eat a bunch of bats, find some fruit, or both. Whatever diet you undertake will contribute to some sort of karma system that will grant you access to certain things, and potentially give you a different ending. Again, none of this has been made fully clear to me, since all of it is described through cryptic symbols and imagery.
Everything that I have told you so far are things that I have slowly figured out as I play the game, for it barely ever bothers to explain anything. You do have a Navi-like companion that follows you around and points to rooms of interest, but aside from that, you are going in a blind as you could ever be. Even though I see this as a big drawback, there are many fascinating moments of discovery to be had here. You can come across new plants, enemies and crazy encounters completely by accident, creating fun moments of tension and quick thinking. Unfortunately, all of those moments are too few and far in between, instead spending most of your time trudging through the same few screens, only to die once again to a monster that was just slightly off screen.
The thing that really put the nail on the coffin was a certain instance where the game actually started clicking with me. I actually started to make progress and started to learn many new things in a short amount of time. I covered a ton of ground and began to see the things that people loved in it. However, all of that came crashing down when I returned to my little bunker, looked at my map and my game crashed. When I booted up the game again, it told me that my save file was corrupted and I had to start the entire thing all over again. Yeah…f*ck this game.
Rain World is like going to a museum to see beautiful paintings, but getting punched in the face is the entry ticket to view every individual piece. I tried as hard as I possibly could to like it, and in some cases, I actually did. However, the boredom, lack of direction, frustrating controls, constant death, crashes and loss of progress turned me completely off of this game. It’s is pretty safe to say that after I’m done with this review, I’ll delete this game off of my PS4 and probably never think about it ever again. That’s how much of a bad time I had with it, despite all the good moments that I sometimes found.
This is essentially a much more artsy and torturous version of Pac-Man. You are one, very vulnerable guy that needs to eat constantly while being chased by different colored monsters, and my only reward is to continue to do that until I inevitably die. Unless you are looking for this specific kind of game, don’t even bother. I write this fully acknowledging all of the incredibly positive reviews this game has been getting; I just find it really sad that I can’t share in the same sentiment.
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