Rain World Review -- Karma's a Bitch
I'm sitting down to write this review after another lengthy session with Rain World, and I am simply overwhelmed with emotion. I've never before seen a game couple such breathtaking highs with utterly demoralizing lows. For better or for worse, the sweet joy of discovery often goes hand in hand with the cold sting of death.
Rain World: A Place of Beauty and (Sometimes) Melancholy
Death is all too commonplace in a world where rain can kill just as well as the predators that roam it. I know, killer rain sounds a little far fetched, but you won't be scoffing at the idea when you get caught in a torrential downpour that may as well be a solid waterfall dropping out of the sky. The rain literally crushes you.
And when you're not racing the clock to the next water-proof hibernation chamber, you'll be puzzling out how to sneak past giant lizards, vultures, goblins, and centipedes -- among many other wild monstrosities that I struggle to describe -- so that you don't become their next snack.
In Rain World, you play as a young slugcat separated from its family during a rainstorm. In hopes of getting back to them one day, you must make your way through an overgrown, post-apocalyptic environment that's reminiscent of games like Limbo, N++, and Titan Souls.
Rain World is an Inhospitable Land Made for Survival
You maneuver around the 2D survival platformer with a simple set of controls -- jumping, grabbing, eating, and throwing -- that can be used in weird and unique ways. For example, if you crouch and charge up a jump, you'll end up leaping a great distance. Or if you find a nice weapon that you want to hold onto but have other things you need to carry, you can press and hold down the eat button to store the weapon in your belly.
I say weapon, but that's like calling a bowl of Trix cereal a bowl of fruit. Aside from the occasional firecracker, most of what you grab will be nothing more than rocks, sticks, and bricks. You can throw them at enemies to try and deter them from following you, but don't expect to actually kill them. You're better off throwing the sticks into walls and using them to climb to new heights.
Now, the core of the game is a simple yet comforting cycle: Eat, Explore, and Hibernate. Every time you head out into the dangerous Rain World, you need to fill your slugcat belly with enough food to hibernate through the next storm. Once full, you have time to explore the nooks and crannies to see if you can't find your way to the next area. If you happen to die along the way, your save reloads at the last hibernation chamber you slept in.
If you just told yourself "Oh, that's not so bad," that's because I haven't yet explained Karma.
Karma's a Bitch -- and Rain World Doles it Out in Spades
Karma in Rain World is somewhat akin to leveling or ranking up in other games. It is displayed as a glyph rather than a number in the lower left-hand corner of the screen when you open your map.
While it won't earn you any extra abilities, a certain amount is required to pass gates that bar you from progressing into the next area. You also need a certain Karma level to return through the gate, which means it's entirely possible to find yourself stuck in a level.
The overall concept is simple enough. When you hibernate, you earn one level of Karma. However, if you die, you lose a rank. Bear in mind that you have to eat food to hibernate and that food is generally non-renewable and you'll begin to see where the problems arise.
Death is inevitable, here. It doesn't matter how skilled you are at platformers, you can't just pick up this game and breeze through it. No life bar and a lack of ways to defend yourself mean every enemy poses a very real threat. This is survival horror in its purest form.
Verdict -- Rain World Isn't For Everyone, But That Doesn't Mean It's Not Great
I wanted to give Rain World a 10/10, to declare it a masterpiece that every gamer must experience at some point in their lives. However, even in the post-Dark Souls era, I know that many of you are not ready for the emotional rollercoaster that comes with the Karma system. I'm not even sure I was.
Yet despite losing all of my progress time and time again, I can't stop obsessing over this game. There are so many wonderous things to discover here that spoiling even a smidgen of it would be a crime. I'm having an incredible time as a slugcat and I can't wait to see more of the secrets that Videocult have packed into this breathtaking adventure.
You can pick up Rain World for $19.99 on Steam (PC) and the PlayStation Store (PS4).
Note: Copy provided by Adult Swim Games for review.