released on Mar 28, 2017
Rain World is a survival platformer set in an abandoned industrial environment ravaged by a shattered ecosystem. Bone-crushingly intense rains pound the surface, making life as we know it almost impossible. The creatures in this world hibernate most of the time, but in the few brief dry periods they go out in search of food.
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This might be one of the hardest games I've actually bothered to beat, and while all of the difficulty is intentional and adds to what the game is trying to convey, which I really respect it for… it is a damn unforgiving experience, and I think I didn’t quite have the patience to enjoy it as much as I could. I have an immense amount of respect for it, but I didn't love playing it much.
Maybe I just don't "get it" but this really wasn't enjoyable to me and I had to quit after a few hours. It's insanely beautiful and incredibly unique but I felt like it gave absolutely no options to overcome it's incredibly punishing difficulty, things aren't really predictable enough to plan a route / approach around and the map is too big and confusing to remember locations between attempts.
Maybe I'll revisit it down the line and like it more then, I really want to, but right now it just feels too punishing to be enjoyable.
Looking up a wiki for this game before finishing it might be one of the biggest regrets I've had in my entire life.
Most things about this game are amazing. I love how it plays so much and the expansion adds even more good stuff. Only gripes are with the food systems to progress and wishing the coop was implemented better. If this game had online coop where each person had their own screen, hoo boy it would be amazing.
I was completely ready to rank this as my favorite game only a few hours in, but after beating it, Rain World has solidified itself even more as such. If you’re at all interested in the game, stop reading and play it. It is absolutely best experienced blind, since much of its satisfaction comes from figuring out the things the game doesn’t tell you.
Rain World strives to be unique in every sense of the word. Each facet of the game oozes with originality and passion, to the gameplay, narrative, art direction, setting, music, world building... all of which blends together to create a frankly masterful work of art. It isn't common that games who try to be one-of-a-kind are, well, good, but Rain World is a different case. Sure, if you pick apart each individual gameplay quirk and inspect it under a microscope, it wouldn't seem that great. This is because, as a whole, the game is designed to be a representation of nature; a living ecosystem. It isn't fair. It doesn't hold your hand. It holds no quarter. It wasn't made to be marketable or streamlined, and instead tailors an experience unlike any other. You do not belong in this world, and it's made abundantly clear. This is accomplished by finely tuning every aspect to accentuate the ludonarrative harmony the developers were aiming to achieve, and makes for one of the most immersive worlds one could ever experience in this medium.
To start things off, you are given a short and cute intro cinematic, then plopped into the game as a creature called a slugcat. Weak and hunted by everything, you must rely on a keen eye, cunning tactics, patience, and perseverance above all else to survive in the harsh environment that is threatened to be drowned by the torrential rain. Steady amounts of food must be acquired, deadly predators must be avoided, and shelter must be found to survive just one cycle among many as you explore the regions. Death is punishing, as it delays your progression into new areas, forcing you to play well and learn your environment, as well as avoiding those who'd see the slugcat fit as a meal. Knowing how easily it is to have progress snatched away at a moment’s notice, every victory becomes immensely satisfying.
The first immediate thing that becomes apparent is the movement. It is simple on the surface, with 4 movement keys and 3 interactive buttons - jump, grab, and throw. Slugcat feels slow and clumsy to control at first, which adds to the feeling of vulnerability. However, therein exists a plethora of completely unexplained techniques and mechanics that, while not essential to master, will aid massively. Learning how to lodge spears into the ground/walls, wall jump, backflip, roll, slide, leap, and combine any of these is satisfying in both practice and application. Schmoving around the environment has never felt so rewarding, and that is due to how fundamentally limiting it is.
Said environment is extremely varied in how it's structured and designed to be interesting to navigate around in. I'll touch on the visuals later, but the way the world connects together reminds me of my enjoyment of my first Dark Souls playthrough, and makes me excited to play it again after writing this. Rain World's... world isn't static, either. The world goes on around you even when you aren't present to see it, and creatures will not be in the same spots they were last time, making for circumstances that will never mirror a previous instance. Heights are terrifying, the open sky is terrifying, tunnel mazes are terrifying, large stretches of water are terrifying. Come to think of it, it’s harsher than the aforementioned game, which I didn’t think was possible until playing this.
Creatures and predators are animated and programmed in such a way that they are always unpredictable and always scary. One example among many is the Lizards: they are aggressive and kill slugcat in one bite (like most creatures), but they are large, and will stumble as you evade them, getting visually frustrated when you get out of reach. They may potentially fight amongst themselves, providing an opportunity to sneak past. Depending on their color, they employ various hunting tactics for those they deem prey; not just the slugcat. Lizards are not at the top of the food chain though, and will flee when more dangerous predators make an appearance, shifting its focus away from the slugcat to one of self-preservation. The world's inconsistent nature, as well as the creature variety and their innate unpredictability, keeps you on your toes and creates for a consistently engaging experience.
All in all, slugcat is given equally as much world significance as every single other creature in the game. It's an ecosystem that happens around slugcat, not because of it. Just as you scour for food, each creature does as well. When the rain is imminently close to falling, animals will all but ignore you while they’re fleeing themselves. It cannot be understated how much this affects the core of Rain World's gameplay, and sets it apart from everything else.
The visuals cannot be properly described through a review, since you'd just have to see for yourself, but let me tell you they're some of the most gorgeous I've witnessed. It's pixel art at its absolute finest, and I have nothing but respect for the artist who painstakingly crafted it. It's detailed beyond belief, and the lighting system just makes everything pop out even more. Superstructures and destroyed worlds, especially if they’re combined as such, tend to elicit powerful feelings from me, so there is some bias, but I think it’s undeniable how damn the game looks. Handfuls of times I'd catch myself stopping and admiring many of the environments and vistas, two of which are my favorite in any game. They're very high up; those who know, know.
Perfectly complementing the regions’ visuals is the music. MAN, what a soundtrack this game has. It’s light on, but not devoid of, music you’d bop your head to, but there’s an emphasis on atmospheric ones. The latter usually play when transitioning between regions, or in dead-end areas, and when it does… it’s so easy to get instantaneously pulled in, is how I’d describe it. Immersed. Engrossed. Some other synonym. It’s giving me goosebumps just remembering some of the key moments and areas where their sole function is to provide immaculate vibes. On that note, something I don’t see discussed often is the amount of spots in each region that are functionally useless in normal gameplay, yet simply serve to flesh out the world. Prime environmental storytelling.
I cannot touch on the narrative and overall worldbuilding in a detailed manner because I’m frankly not super versed in the Buddhism it takes after. I will say though, the method of which Rain World slowly reveals its themes is stellar. Not a single line of dialogue; nothing is explicitly told… in the first half, at least. It’s all told through worldbuilding. You’ll have to really go out of your way to find more details. By the end, I was so friggin hooked that I’m fairly certain it has changed my brain chemistry and how I perceive life. Gazing upon the ending screens, emotions boiled over and had me crying tears of relief and joy. My life in this world flashed before my eyes as I reflected on the harrowing journey that I had endured. It was finally conquered. A truly ethereal experience this game pans out to be. I love it so much.
If there’s one thing I regret after playing Rain World is if I’ll be able to enjoy other games as much. My standards for what a game should strive to be have been raised even higher than they once were. It isn’t for everyone, though, as much as I wish every person could experience it in its entirety. It’s frustrating and obtuse as all hell - sometimes genuinely unfair - and it’ll heavily depend on whether or not that’s a good thing. For me at least, its unflinching, uncompromising resolve to portray living as a prey animal in a decrepit world’s ecosystem is what elevates it far and beyond what I’ve already played, and likely what I will ever play.