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Game Info:

Rain World
Developed By: Videocult
Published By: Adult Swim Games
Released: March 28, 2017; December 13, 2018 (Switch)
Available On: PlayStation 4, Windows, Switch
Genre: Platformer; Survival
ESRB Rating: E10+ for Everyone 10+: Fantasy Violence, Mild Blood
Number of Players: Up to four players
Price: $19.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you Videocult for providing us with a review code.

Experiencing Rain World made me appreciate that I was born human. I find a wild animal’s existence to be terrifying. Always on the move, never having the chance to rest as you’re being hunted at nearly every opportunity and the slightest misstep or miscalculation can spell your doom. How ironic that I am now reviewing a game that makes me face said fear.

Rain World, developed by Videocult and published by Adult Swim Games is a platformer with elements of the Metroidvania sub-genre and elements of survival horror games. You play as a slugcat which despite the name, looks more like a ferret, but I can see the inspiration for the name with the creature’s design. The tail is reminiscent of a slug's body while the face does resemble a cat. The main goal is for the slugcat to survive another day, while looking for its missing family. You’ll crawl through passageways, looking for food and shelter. Slugcats play the role of both predator and prey, feasting on small insects while avoiding other predators such as lizards with armor-plated heads and vultures.

Another thing that every creature in this world looks out for is the bone-crushing torrential downpours that happen periodically. Every animal in this dreary ecosystem falls prey to the waters that come from above. Because of this deadly weather, the creatures hibernate during the rainfall. When they emerge, only two things are on their minds—food and living to see tomorrow. The rain also acts as a gameplay mechanic. These horrifying waters pour down every twenty real life minutes, forcing the slugcat to seek shelter whether it wants to or not.

Rain World
Highlights:

Strong Points: Gritty art style in 16-bit visuals; rewarding gameplay if you stick with it
Weak Points: Death is extremely punishing; AI can be too smart at times, forcing you into near-unwinnable situations
Moral Warnings: Violence based on “survival of the fittest”; some spiritual aspects, with implied “ascension”

The gritty art style matches the bleak setting thrust upon this world. A place that humans or a similar intelligent species once dominated sorely misses its masters. The buildings, factories, and sewers are broken, rusted, and vegetation growing wherever it can. A 16-bit art style was chosen to reflect the world and I like the sprite work. The animations are smooth and the retro visuals of 16-bit sprites do a good job in showing this aged world. The music complements the grim setting with many of its pieces providing ambient sounds mixed with a bit of techno, providing a sense of unfamiliarity and alien-like setting.

Rain World tells you very little when starting. The only things that it will outright explain are how to move, how to eat, and how to survive. Movement, either by keyboard or controller is simple but takes time to get used to as the slugcat doesn’t move like any traditional platforming hero. Almost everything else is up to you to find out. Similar to the cruel (rain) world, the difficulty is a reflection of this. The slugcat has limited means of defending itself. Predators are aggressive and will kill the slugcat in one hit. The little furry creature will have to rely on its wit and agility to come out ahead. Fortunately, the slugcat is a smart creature, able to use various tools such as bricks and spears to defend itself. A lot of deaths, especially in the beginning will simply come from not understanding how many mechanics work. It doesn’t help that death is extremely punishing—some of the more punishing death mechanics in video games I have played (outside of things like permadeath or an arcade-style game over). Not only do you lose all your progress prior to your last save, you also lose karma and enemy placement is rearranged. How karma works is that every time you successfully hibernate, your karma goes up. Every time you die, karma goes down. Karma is needed to unlock certain areas to progress so I’m sure many of you know where this is going. With many deaths in the early game, it’s almost like no progress is being made at all.

However, once you’re past the monotony of dying over and over and a rage quit hasn’t happened, Rain World’s mechanics are rewarding. The little yellow wisp-like creature that persists after the tutorial segment acts as an ambiguous guide, pointing the slugcat towards the "easiest" path to food and shelter. The platforming and movement depth starts to show once the barrier to entry is passed. In the beginning, the slugcat feels and moves like a slug but with practice, will start to manuver like a cat. There are a lot of advanced movement abilities that the slugcat has access to such as rolling, backflips, and pounces.

The ecosystem contains an interesting AI system. Many predators will fight each other for territory. The AI isn't perfect, as there were a few moments that I ran into with enemy placement and behavior acting in such a way that I was either forced to take a death or come up with a very convoluted method to pass. Not every animal is aggressive to the slugcat too, at least at first. In a stroke of brilliance, this does mean that besides killing and running, there are other methods to convince predators to not eat you. This doesn’t mean that you can “befriend” every animal. Some will kill you on sight so it’s best to avoid them whenever possible.

Rain World
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 80%
Gameplay 16/20
Graphics 8/10
Sound 7/10
Stability 5/5
Controls 4/5

Morality Score - 89%
Violence 5.5/10
Language 10/10
Sexual Content 10/10
Occult/Supernatural 9/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical 10/10

With the release of the 1.5 version update, Rain World provides two more difficulties. The first one is Monk, which is the easy mode, making the animals not as aggressive as well as not as much food required to be eaten, as well as the karma system playing less of a role. The other difficulty is also an extra mode. Hunter is the hard mode and besides enemies being more aggressive, there are many other changes such as fewer places to take shelter to hibernate and a limited hibernation cycle that eventually turns into permadeath. However, this slugcat is more carnivorous than omnivorous, being able to deal more damage with tools/weapons and the ability to eat almost any dead creature. Also added with the 1.5 update is a multiplayer mode dubbed Arena. Up to four players face off in various enclosed areas fending off predators while trying to remain the last one standing.

Due to the fact that there is little dialogue and almost all of the storytelling is through visuals, there are not that many moral concerns. There is violence and it can be cruel. Stabbing enemies with a spear does make them bleed a little bit. Some of the deaths the slugcat bears witness to are being skewered by flying creatures or thrashed about by the lizards. The slugcat also bleeds slightly when killed by certain creatures. The few characters that actually speak in the game also seem to mention something about ascension, which implies there may be some spiritual aspects at play.

If you’re a person who gets frustrated easily, it might be in your best interest to avoid Rain World at all costs as there is very little to enjoy if a leisurely stroll is what you’re looking for. If a challenging experience where you constantly learn new things is something you like, then Rain World has plenty of it. I can understand how and why a large portion of people weren’t very receptive due to its punishing difficulty and leaving many aspects up to the player to find out. Despite its polarizing methods, Rain World is a solid platformer-survival hybrid that may appeal to a niche group, but appeals to them greatly. In terms of morality, it’s generally safe for most to play (as long as you're not easily frightened), although I doubt many children or adults are willing to put up with it as the majority of people play video games for all the opposite reasons Rain World is trying to sell.

About the Author

Cinque Pierre

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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