Rain World Floods onto Steam/PSN March 28
Ever wonder what it feels like to be one of those small mammals in nature documentaries; the ones in constant danger of getting eaten by bigger, scarier critters? It’s a bleak thought, but at least the art of Rain World outshines the average nature show. Adult Swim Games featured its upcoming survival platformer at PAX East. While Rain World may not have received the same excitement as some of ASG’s other titles, (the Rick and Morty VR line never shrank) it still earned a modest crowd. The Rain World is a harsh place, and as the name implies, the predators aren’t the only threats you’ll face.
You play as a young nomadic slugcat, a small white weasel-like creature with big black eyes. Slugcats stand somewhere in the middle of Rain World’s food chain, so while you squeeze, leap, and climb away from predators, you must also hunt smaller prey to survive. Gather enough food, and you’ll be able to hibernate. Get caught by another predator, and you’ll watch your lifeless corpse get carried off to be eaten later; Circle of Life.
The 16-bit art style makes up a big share of the game’s simplicity, but it uses that structure to make some remarkable effects. The pixels meld and shift in a way that gives Rain World an almost liquid sense of mobility. The slugcat doesn’t move in the same frantic way rodents do, but in a fluid and flexible motion that looks part insect, part reptile, and (oddly enough) part human. With its bipedal walk cycles and use of simple tools, the slugcat resembles a tiny person dressed in pixelated white.
The other animals have some interesting quirks and features as well. Lizard-like dragons scour the ground and fight each other for prey. Silhouetted rabbit monsters with long spidery legs prowl in the distance. The game’s strange ecosystem blends animal features together to make something entirely new, but uncomfortably familiar.
Even the backgrounds call out to a world not unlike ours. The blended shapes and colors mimic a decayed industrial area, like a post-apocalyptic downtown that seems more dump than city. The rains that inevitably come are the most interesting graphics to watch: they don’t fall as individual drops, but as a relentless torrent that blurs the background. The only indication that it’s actually raining is the flooding water rising to drown you. If you think the predators are the biggest challenge, try ignoring the icon warning you to find shelter. You’ll change your mind fast enough.
Overall, Rain World’s art makes it stand out from other survival platformers, and it’s what makes the game worth playing. The designers minimized plot and music to make the visuals front-and-center. Plenty of games already use the “fight or flight” dynamic, and plenty more will use it after Rain World’s release. Adult Swim Games hasn’t published the typical campy (and often hilarious) titles we’ve grown to expect from them. Rain World is quiet, solemn, and almost entirely humorless, but like the nature documentaries and the Circle of Life itself, it is beautiful.
Rain World releases on Steam and PSN starting March 28.