The girl appears beneath the raindrops of a gathering storm. She's being chased by an unknown assailant, and her fear is unmistakable, even though her body is just a translucent glimmer. A boy watches her hurry past. Concerned for her safety, he leaves the warmth of his home and steps into the foreboding night. His body disappears, and his own fate is now in jeopardy, but a greater force compels him forward. Rain is a somber and poignant adventure that has serious emotional weight when its story and puzzles coalesce, resulting in a heartwarming fairy tale in which trust can overcome any danger.
The city is dark and absent any semblance of life. It's as if the raindrops have washed away the elements that turn a cluster of buildings and roads into a real city. The storytelling happens organically as the boy ventures through the desolate streets. Words are etched on the abandoned houses and stairways you walk past. You learn about the boy and this world he now inhabits, and you draw closer to him as he struggles to make sense of this nightmarish place. Posters plastered on walls use well-known fiction to hint at the dilemma the characters now face. The fear of becoming a new being in Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis is exemplified in Rain, as is Casablanca's vision of forging a relationship in a troubled land.
Without the rain, you're nothing. Seek shelter from the unrelenting storm, and your body disappears. It's only when you're cold and drenched that you become slightly visible. Monsters lurk in the empty alleyways, afflicted with the same condition as you. Hide from them by vanishing under an awning, and then race through the downpour when their backs are turned. Rain is a puzzle game set in a desolate cityscape in which moving ever onward is your only option. And though the boy may be cleverer than the deadly threats, he isn't stronger. One bite from the roaming creatures ends his life, so you must avoid them at all costs. Push boxes and clamber up scaffolding to find a path to freedom, always mindful of what one misstep can lead to.
As the girl runs away from the figure that's always chasing her, she's unaware of your existence. Does she think it's luck when a pathway opens up? Or is she so focused on escape that she doesn't even question how she is being saved? It doesn't matter. Only her safety does. Eventually, you join her. No longer must you solve puzzles on your own. Instead, you work in tandem, always alert to the unknown stalker nearby. The storm has swallowed your voices along with your bodies, so your communication is limited. A frantic halting motion or a friendly wave is the only way you can talk to each other, but what is there to say? You're both lost in this world, desperate to survive, and so you just keep walking, searching for a way out.
Survival is the overarching goal of every puzzle. You keep out of sight of the monsters and search for a link between this haunted world and your own. Because of your limited abilities and the few objects you can interact with, there aren't many barriers halting your progress. Create a distraction by banging on an organ, and then carry the key toward the locked door. Lure the roaming monster toward the scavengers who attack anything that moves. Without taxing conundrums to give you pause, Rain moves constantly forward, letting you focus on the plight of the two troubled children.
It's in the predictability of the puzzles that Rain loses its footing. Too often, the puzzles seem forced, a manufactured reason to do something. So you dutifully do what you must, though without much engagement. Ideas are introduced and then quickly forgotten. The boy's feet becoming visible when he steps into a muddy pool or the docile creatures creating shelter above you never evolve into mechanics that could add more diversity to the tired rhythm. It's only when the puzzles and story intermingle that Rain reaches its potential. When the boy hoists the girl to safety while he stays behind, trusting that she will save him too, you feel his anxiety: you put so much faith in this stranger, and it's rewarding when she doesn't let you down.
Rain has a straight-ahead style that urges you to plunge deeper into the dreary world. That there are no distractions is to the game's benefit because you're always focused on the immediate dangers, causing you to become more immersed. When you complete the adventure, however, a new game plus opens up that adds depth to the core offering. Hidden memories fill in many of the ancillary questions that arise, giving you a reason to explore alternate paths to learn every detail of what unfolded. You finally learn details about the boy and the city before the darkness enveloped them, and these tidbits give you further insight into the background elements.
Rain pulls you in from the early moments. The abandoned city that you roam through is beautiful in its gloominess, and the quiet piano score adds subtle background texture without overwhelming the other aspects. The pieces of Rain meld wonderfully together, and as the story comes to a tense conclusion, it becomes absolutely riveting. But there are hours between the evocative opening and cathartic ending that go through the motions. There's little engagement when the puzzles fail to complement the story directly, instead offering separate tasks you must complete. Because Rain reaches some impressive high points, however, it's still a haunting tale of compassion and trust in a dark land.