More and more, games are starting to expand beyond their genre-limited boundaries in an attempt to offer the players more freedom. Exploration is back in a big way, and Rain World, developed by Videocult and published by Adult Swim Games, offers plenty of it. This game has appeared on my social media feeds for quite a while now, teasing with its beautifully-animated gifs of the environments and the flora and fauna that populate it.

The adventure begins by putting you in control of Lil Slugger, the slugcat (not its actual name). In a world that seems to have long forgotten what it’s like when humans are around, animals roam the industrial wasteland of pipes, gears, vents, and vaults. Oh, yes, and it rains rather often. True to its title, the world is periodically covered in rain so torrential that any caught in it are washed away. Lil Slugger experienced this, separated from family and forced to find its way back home.

Home is far, far away, though, and there’s a vast world to explore. You’re tasked with exploring the world room by room, with small access tunnels leading from one to the next. Even in just a few minutes of play, it becomes clear just how monumental a task this is, as there are dozens of rooms to explore in the first area alone and over 1600 rooms in total. Is that a bit much? Yes, it is. Holding the shoulder button opens up a map that shows the local area, but good luck actually making much sense of it all. Normally, I love having a grand world to explore, and the 16-bit artistic style showing a unique blend of nature and machine are amazing, but be careful.

The entire world is out to kill you.

At least it's a lovely gravesite, yes?

At least it’s a lovely gravesite, yes?

Rain World is, more than anything else, a game about survival. You aren’t the only creature slinking around the steam tunnels. All sorts of nasty predators like hard-headed lizards burrow through the smallest crevices while the open skies are often patrolled by vicious raptors. You aren’t at the absolute bottom rung of the food chain, but you’re certainly close, with only a few insects wary of your approach. Slugger can pick up sticks and rocks to hurl at predators, stunning or possibly (but very unlikely) killing them, but flight is definitely suggested over fight.

Flight can be a bit difficult given the controls and some design decisions, though. There’s a lot of unique movement in this game, and everything seems to move in its own unique way. That does unfortunately tend to make for some finnicky gameplay. Being a slugcat, Slugger can fit into nearly any crevice, which is great for navigating the pipes, but there are often inexplicably multiple pipes crammed together, some leading to multiple different areas or even nowhere at all, and often the game will slot you into the wrong pipe. Slugger also has terrible jumping skills (more slug than cat), making even the smallest leaps a real challenge and areas that require walljumping (leaping from one wall to another and back to climb) an absolute test of patience.

Predators aren’t the only threat. As mentioned before, the rains come periodically, and when they do, it can spell doom for the slugcat. There are very specific areas that can be reached, serving as safe places to sleep as the storms come. Unfortunately, they’re few and extremely far between. What’s worse, Slugger can’t sleep without a full belly, and that means that time must be taken while exploring to ensure that all hunger is sated.

Trying to keep your hunger sated while denying others the same can be difficult.

Trying to keep your hunger sated while denying others the same can be difficult.

Taken separately, none of these is a big issue, but when put together it can be a daunting task just to get through a single day. It dulls the incentive to explore when told you have to find a safe room before the rain comes and find enough food to survive, like being told you can go to a friend’s party but you have to be home and in bed by 9PM. It doesn’t help that there’s also a vague progression system tied to unlocking new areas. Sleep in a safe spot and it increases, but die and it goes back, making it even less appealing to really explore.

My absolute favorite moments in Rain World came in discovering something new about the landscape and the wildlife. Everything seems to be alive and moving in its own way, some delightful and cute while others were simply terrifying. There’s even an impressive attention to detail in sound design, where the approach of enemies or rain can be heard long before they’re seen, with increasing intensity as they get closer. This is the game at its best, but it hurts itself by tacking on a number of chores that simply weigh down the experience.

 

KAIJU VERDICT

2/4 Pops: Decent  There might be problems that mount up and prevent it from being a top tier game, or it might not do enough to quite make it stand out, but a 2 can still be an enjoyable experience that the curious should try.

Review based on a digital version of the game played on a PS4 Pro

Review code supplied by the developer

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