This Adult Swim-published platformer simulates a harsh environment, but it might do it a little too well.
Genre: Puzzle Platformer
Publisher: Adult Swim Games
Release date: March 28th, 2017
A World of Rain and Predators
When I first saw this game in Steam’s upcoming list a year or two ago, it instantly caught my eye with its gritty, dark art-style, which stood out compared to similar platformers. The premise of controlling what’s prey to most creatures in the game sounded interesting, and the animal itself, the cat-slug, was appealing (there are even plushies of it available). The only problem was, the game seemed to take forever to come out, only finally releasing earlier this year in March. I picked it up in the Summer Sale, but was it worth the wait?
You play as an anonymous cat-slug on the titular Rain World, an alien environment that has almost cataclysmic rain storms. While migrating during one, you’re separated from your family, and you’ll have to “Land Before Time”-it back to them while avoiding everything trying to kill you. There’s quite a lot of that to go around.
Nature At Work
The Food Chain is a pretty big theme of Rain World, and you, unfortunately, occupy an odd middle rung of it. While you’re big enough to feed on a lot of things, that also makes you an appealing snack to predators, and evolution didn’t bless you with any tools to really fight them off. You can pick up objects, move pretty fast, and climb things a lot of foes can’t, but direct combat isn’t an option, and if something’s in your way you’ll have to use your brain. Detours are often possible thanks to the tunnels that litter the landscape, although, you’ll have to be careful around them as certain enemies are crafty enough to make use of them as well. It’s also possible to goad predators into fighting each other, allowing you to sneak past.
The difficulty might turn people off Rain World, as a single run-in with anything dangerous is typically enough to kill you. You can save your progress in certain shelters that are helpfully marked, although you have to find the room they’re in yourself. However, you make use of these shelters by hibernating, something you can only do if you have enough food stored: four units, out of a max of seven you can carry with you. So, you’ll always need to hunt down at least one thing.
They’re not just a helpful feature, though, but a necessary one: the regular floods in Rain World also tie into the gameplay. Every so often rain will come down, gradually building up into a monsoon that will leave your poor rain slug very dead, and only the shelters are rain-tight enough to weather it. So, not only do you need to progress and avoid enemies, you also need to keep yourself fed and find these rooms too.
But wait, there’s more! To actually move between areas of the game, you’ll need a certain amount of karma – the icon in the middle of the in-game clock. That increases whenever you hibernate and decreases when you die. So, there’s a good chance you’ll end up having to do that multiple times depending on how error-prone or unlucky you are, which will require a good knowledge of the area, where food is, and what the enemies lurking around are capable of. This is all stuff you’d need to know if you were in an animal’s shoes and wanted to live another day, so I have to appreciate how well the game produces that kind of experience.
At the same time though, there are some things the game could be a little more obvious about. The karma system is visible in the game, but you might not realize that’s how it works without looking it up or asking someone. In direct gameplay, there are some tricks that also aren’t instantly apparent. Some of these are small and not too out there, like being able to throw a spear into a nearby wall and use it as a platform. Others are not so obvious, like being able to tame certain enemies by tossing them food or other objects they’ll like; that’s not necessary to complete the game, but I find it doubtful you’d stumble onto it accidentally.
There’s a lot to like about the gameplay, even so, as long as you don’t mind feeling vulnerable. The level design is nice and sprawled out, making you feel like you’re an explorer of these lost ruins. They lend themselves well to escaping predators or finding ways around them, and I can think of a lot of spontaneous moments where I managed to do that.
Graphics-wise, as I said, Rain World definitely stands out. The palette and design make the game feel dirty and dark, as nature often is despite our attempts to romanticize it. However, enemies are often designed with bright colors or have something else that attracts your attention – the common lizards all have bright skin of some kind, while the massive bird above foretells it swooping in with its shadow. Music-wise, there really isn’t much, just ambient noise, but then there’s none in nature either.
It’s definitely not a game for everyone, but I think Videocult has nailed what they set out to do with this game. In the near future they’re going to be patching in difficulty options, allowing you to play as a yellow slugcat that predators will be less likely to attack and more likely to befriend, as well as a red slugcat that will be attacked more often but also be more prepared for combat, allowing you some wiggle room as you play the game. Overall, if you want a different experience or a look into what squirrels and similar animals go through daily, I can definitely recommend Rain World.