It’s been pretty great being a human, that’s all I can say. I mean, as a comparative sentence, I don’t have any other experience to pit it against, but, as a human being on the planet Earth in this year, things are pretty alright. I’m not top of the food chain, but I also don’t live in an environment where something’s gonna eat me. I have vast amounts of entertainment, education and food sources, and the only expectation is that I contribute back to the overall society in some way. In my case, that’s selling reams of copy paper at an ungodly hour, but that’s not the point. I take for granted how great it is that the world around me is specifically melded to make sure that I get the best possible existence, with as few serious hurdles as possible (the cost of the special edition of Kingdom Hearts III versus the standard is not a hurdle). So, thank God that Adult Swim is here to remind everyone how potentially ruined we could be in a delightful, painful game called Rain World.
Rain World is an appropriately named post-apocalyptic planet where things have been torn asunder by some kind of catastrophe, and all that’s left are mutated animals, modern ruins and the occasional budding hope in the form of nature still attempting to bloom. You are a slugcat, an animal that’s a cross between exactly what you’d imagine, and you live in a familial tribe, surviving, exploring, basically trying to live, which is pretty much how far most animals get in the “thinking about the future” mentality. One day, you and another slugcat are separated from your pack, and now you need to try and find your way on your own in this desolation. Maybe you’ll discover your family, maybe you’ll find a higher purpose, or, more than likely, you’ll end up a snack for a predator who outweighs you by teeth and tonnage alone. This is Rain World: there isn’t much more to it than that.
From the drop, Rain World intentionally leaves the player alone, scared and confused as to what they should be doing. After just a couple of simple on-screen clues as to how to move and what you need to be doing (eating, not dying), you’re met with the reason that the planet is so aptly named: the crushing, punishing rain. It takes only seconds before the planet becomes doused in torrential floods that come plummeting down from the sky like another Biblical strike, and God help the poor slugcat who hasn’t found a safe place to hide by then. Your entire life is spent in this specific cycle of progress, eating, and hibernation. You curl up tightly, sleeping away until the doomsday waters are ceased and you can venture out again. This is the first indication of something done right in the Switch port, as the use of HD rumble to signal the coming waters is wonderfully terrifying. The sound, combined with the slowly, dramatically increasing feedback gives real urgency to how it must feel, as an animal, to know that death comes regularly, and will grant you a head start that you MUST use.
As you delve deeper into the game, you start to understand and unpack the meaning and the experience of Rain World. On the one hand, the game is challenging, but only because we’ve all been used to games bringing a certain level of understanding or balancing to the table. In lieu of a difficulty setting, this version of Rain World brings two additional characters to play as, who act as different sorts of difficulty barometers. The Monk is perfect for players who haven’t played the game before and might not know what they’re getting into, as there is significantly less pressure to, well, not be eaten. The Hunter is the polar opposite, throwing you into this mess of a landscape with every target on you and the lust to claw to the top of the food chain (or at least your own chain) burning in your mind. Be warned, new players: Hunter will seriously, unapologetically ruin your situation.
Then you dive into the game itself. You see the slugcat able to grab a hold of objects and use them as both tools to operate and understand the world around it, as well as projectile weapons to try and scare or even defeat other animals. You watch it squeeze into tight areas, trying to navigate a world of pipes, dead ends and water that may or may not be infested with other animals. You see the desperate clambering to find something smaller than itself to eat, be it fruit or another creature, because hunger is a real thing, and paramount for animals to satiate. It’s a seriously rough road to go down, and one that’s told with the biggest enemy of the game, the rain, being totally unstoppable, unpreventable, and you have zero saving throws if you decide to get killed in the process. Worse yet, dying lowers your karma score, which inhibits your ability to reach other areas and keep the game moving along. If you want to finish this game ever, you gotta stay alive, get to hibernation areas and eat those yellow flowers to keep above the threshold.
That being said, the journey of the slugcat throughout his desolate land is a fascinating one, and something that really turns from a game into a quest in just a few short moments. You start to question what brought about the world as you see it now, and there are hints at the cataclysm that left the land devoid of humanity. Machines still run in some places, creating difficult mazes to get through and spots of imminent danger that must be navigated with extreme care. You get a sense of how the world must look from the eyes of something so insignificant in the cosmic meaning, and how the land that we, humans, have created must be fearsome and insane to navigate when you’re not build specifically like we are. You’re rooting for the slugcat, not just because you want to beat the game, but because you want to see it thrive, survive, find something more than just becoming lunch to a pink lizard that can climb walls. I will say, though, that the game, towards the end, seems to shift far and away from “game” and into “existential narrative,” so be warned if you’re not totally into games that become art.
If you’re more interested in the game to maintain an action and excitement feeling, please know there are a few different layers to consider. For one, there’s a ton of exploration available in Rain World, and not every secret needs to be discovered in order to find the ending, though the different extras to a “100%” run are worth the extra time. Not to mention it gives you more time to enjoy the pixel graphics and drink in the ambient, melancholy soundtrack that perfectly captures the atmosphere and the sorrowful, bittersweet life on Rain World. Many game soundtracks are perfect to help inspire for various actions, be they writing papers, driving, playing other games or even doing yard work. Rain World is perfect for a rainy day, when all you want to think about are the terrible things that happened before, and how life is different now. I love it, and I think you will too, if you like the game.
Additionally, there’s this arena mode, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the idea in general. The arena of Rain World allows you and up to three other people to exist in a sandboxed region, either in a competitive sense or merely in a “explore and don’t die” sort of way. Neither really appealed to me, nor fit in with my own take of the land. Rain World is great because the interactions that you have with other creatures (ones that aren’t actively trying to eat you) are few and far between, and that level of isolation really plays into the overall narrative. To be in a singular area and fighting against other slugcats was just bizarre to me, but I can see the appeal. Hell, if you can make it against your friends here, you can make it anywhere.
Overall, Rain World was beautiful, sad, exciting and unforgettable. It’s hard to believe I once associated Adult Swim games with things like Bring Me Sandwiches and other silly, quickie games. They’re a serious indie force, and they often bring excellence to the table on a level that’s hard to explain to anyone who only watches the television situation. But if you’ve ever been curious as to how to live in a world that’s against you from birth, Rain World is a fantastic ride, and having it be mobile reminds you just how small you can feel.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rain World Review
User Review( votes)
Slugcat, slugcat, why is everyone eating you? Slugcat, slugcat, it’s not your fault. Come and enjoy this beautifully brutal life, now on the Nintendo Switch.