Parents need to know that Rain World is a downloadable action game. This game is extremely challenging, which could frustrate players, thanks to a procedural design that means the game map is different each time you play. That means you won't be able to go online to look for walkthroughs or meaningful help. Apart from some animals eating other animals, there's no inappropriate content to be found in the game.
I'm not sure if the reviewer (David Wolinsky) has actually played the game from start to finish, but many of the negative points brought up are outright false or omit information.
1) The game *does* have a story which encourages exploration: the main character (slugcat) has to find its family. You can also gain access to "lore items" in order to know the world's background story, but even without those items, the game has enough environmental storytelling so the players get an overall idea of what's going on, as long as they've paid attention.
2) You *can* hibernate without eating food by holding down the Down key while you're in a shelter. You can also simply wait in the shelter until it closes automatically due to the rain; Slugcat will immediately hibernate afterwards, belly-filled or not.
3) The game makes it clear at the beginning tutorial that you *need* to hibernate in order to survive, unless you skipped the tutorial by not following the Yellow guide, which would be the player's fault as the game makes it obvious it is trying to teach you and help you. Every time you leave a shelter to explore the world, a deadly rain comes after 10-15 minutes, and the only place where it doesn't rain and where you can hibernate are shelters, so you need to find one and sleep so you can wait until the rain ends and you can get out to explore again.
4) There's no such thing as hibernation level, it's called Karma, and it's gained upon successfully hibernating and lost upon death. You will not lose Karma if you don't die. If you eat the flower that appears in a place where you died, you will not lose Karma if you die again (only lasts for one death); it serves no other purpose than that. It is not a flag, nor it is needed to eat these flowers if you never die. There's no way to lose "hours of progress" in this game, because it always saves automatically when you hibernate -which you need to do every 10-15 minutes before the rain comes-. And if you lose progress because you died and lost plenty of Karma, you can easily gain it back by hibernating and stopping dying so often.
Regarding the review itself, it seems to be complaining about how the game doesn't hold your hand, but this is exactly one of the main appeals of the game. It only teaches you the basics, but it expects the player to learn most mechanics on their own, including the protagonist's movements and what certain items do. It rewards exploring and experimenting. You're free to roam the world as you wish, but there are still hints of where you should go in order to progress, as the Yellow creature of the tutorial will show you where to go, and a curious player will follow those hints as they may lead to the protagonist's family.
Rain World is an excellent game, but you have to play it with a very specific mindset in order to fully enjoy it. Your character doesn't get stronger, instead you as a player get better at using the tools at your disposal. If you're looking for a survival experience in an atmospheric world full of challenges and implied spiritual themes, then this is the game for you.
I don't blame the reviewer for not falling in love with Rain World-- it's an incredibly esoteric, weird, and unbelievably hard survival platformer that doesn't tell you much of anything at the start. It doesn't give you a goal, gives you only the vaguest hints of where to go, doesn't hold your hand-- but to see those things as negative is sort of missing the point of Rain World. The game has genuine missteps: a kinda wonky camera system, some glitches. The unfair difficulty is (largely) not one of them.
And yeah! It is unfair, and that's perfect for what it's going for—you are a small, not yet fully grown creature, separated from the pack, and thrown into a world of endless despair and suffering with only fleeting, fragile moments of light and kinship. I didn't realise until MUCH later in the game that the line in the trailer about everything being stuck in an endless cycle of death and rebirth was not poeticism, it was VERY literal; every time you die, you reincarnate, the same as every other creature. It's a sci-fi world inspired by buddhist and transhumanist ideas, where the family you had is taken from you, and you cannot die, leaving you to search for any sort of meaning in this existence of endless suffering, essentially... and by you, I mean YOU the player, because you don't initially know what the point of the game even is, or what you're trying to achieve. That meaning is something you're both searching for. It's bleak! It sometimes feels hopeless, (though it's also very exciting to be chased around by large predators, stumbling and tumbling as you scramble to get away) I wondered many times throughout my playthrough if I had the strength or patience in me to reach the end, especially when I had NO idea where I was going, largely...
In a sense, your character remembers every single time they met a bitter end, same as you-- they don't just respawn and rewind. This tooth and claw struggle you both go through creates an incredible CONNECTION between the player and your character.
Even just moving around as this character facilitates a kinaesthetic kind of connection you don't feel often in games; Ya see, Rain World doesn't really control like other platformers, mostly due to the procedural/physics based animation, that is able to reflect your movements and decisions in a much more reactive, individualistic and expressive way than games with set/fixed animations.
When you get the hang of the movement and combat, (which will take tens of hours of practice and experimentation) the systems really SHINE. They're incredibly in depth and satisfying to master-- BUT... they kinda feel like hot garbage at first, I'm not gonna lie. You are clumsy. You fall, and slip-- tumble over the edges of platforms to your death and miss spear throws. I blamed the game initially, but I learned, and you can too. Your journey to bodily autonomy is one you experience in tandem with the character you embody, and that "arc" wouldn't work if the controls were easy, or... even explained to you, or if you had a reference for them, if the game played like Mario, for instance.
Everything you experience as the slugcat is shared, (all except for... the physical pain of being torn to shreds, stabbed and drowned, you only feel the frustration and anxiety); ludonarrative cohesion, baby! God, you love to see it.
And this is only BARELY touching on Rain World's most outwardly appealing lineaments-- The art design, animation, and music are PHENOMENAL. There is not a single game out there that looks and sounds like this, that MOVES like this. (Quick shout out to the extremely clever dynamic threat music that kicks in whenever danger is nearby) The game is truly transportive and immersive, which... might not be your first thought looking at the game, since it's 2D-- but since every single creature in the game is not designed as a cookie cutter enemy who just wants to murder YOU specifically, and is instead imbued with individual GOALS that don't even involve you (like, search for food, run from danger, fight over food from that guy over there, get back to shelter, and more, but, that really depends on the type of creature) and PERSONALITIES (each creature has slightly different quirks and temperaments, and they ALL look visually distinct so you can tell them apart, lizards and scavengers being especially distinct from each other with unique frills, spikes, and slightly different colourations for the lizards, and ENTIRELY WILD colourations for the scavs) plus, the creatures are always moving around and trying to achieve these goals, even when off-screen... So you can go through a pipe and discover two lizards scrapping over food, who may have been doing that for the past ten minutes, completely unaware of you!
Taking this all together, means you get some of the most believable and interesting AI you'll ever come across in another game; it almost feels like a simulation of an alien ecosystem, more than a game, really... I've played hundreds of hours now, and I'm still coming across unique AI interactions and situations... It's amazing how lifelike and believable this world Videocult has created is.
Even though this game wouldn't exist if there weren't people to play it, the game is extremely adamant that this world DOES NOT revolve around you-- that you're just one of millions of creatures trying to live their lives. It does this, not only through the AI, but the level design also... the crumbling urban sprawls you inhabit are REGULARLY hostile towards you on their own, with terrifying jumps and pits, terrible, suffocating underwater channels you have to swim through, and extremely hard, precise platforming that all feel less like a series of intentionally designed, gamey challenges, and more like the natural consequence of trying to traverse this broken land. In most games, this is very different-- games are very expensive and hard to make, and so, by NECESSITY, most everything in games is utility first, with that utility being pretty clearly communicated to the player. It reminds me, in some ways, of Fumito Ueda's approach to level design-- and... yeah, most of my thoughts on this aren't entirely my own, Jacob Geller has had a major influence on how I think about games, and I really recommend checking this out. https://youtu.be/NLphTtVZfvw
More specifically, it reminds me of The Last Guardian, and the relationship you have to space in that game-- the way you are constantly reminded of your physicality, and your the limits of your body. Every single part of that game is reckoning with space, and the frustration that comes with your limited ability to traverse it, to progress, you must constantly be aware of your body, and of Trico's, your massive bird-dog creature friend. Rain World's sense of physicality is not entirely the same, but, shares some similarities. https://ivc.lib.rochester.edu/the-monster-has-kind-eyes-intimacy-and-fr… If you want a more in-depth examination of these ideas, definitely check this essay out! It's just brilliant.
In the interest of being impartial, (not to brag, but I've gotten so good at the game I can't give an entirely truthful account of just how hard it is, because it's not my experience of the game anymore) the game, I will remind you that it is not ALWAYS fun. The hopelessness is VERY REAL. There were stretches of the game that seemed impossible and blatantly unfair, sections that I took WEEKS OFF from, before picking the game back up to keep trying. Many people do not complete their first playthrough and end up giving up entirely! That is okay. But if you stick with it, I promise you, you will find a MAGIC in this game like you've never experienced elsewhere... And the ending-- (there IS an ending, by the way!) is mind-meltingly beautiful and terrifying. Please, do not spoil it for yourself. If you are part way through the game and have enjoyed what you've seen, but aren't sure whether you can beat this thing, please press on just a little longer! :) The Reddit community is very helpful if you get truly stuck or just have some questions. I have to admit, I didn't go into Rain World entirely blind... I googled stuff, looked at a few wikis and reddit posts whenever I really wanted to know something for sure. There's no shame in it.
Also... the reviewer got things flat-out wrong about the mechanics of the game. I can't really blame them for that, either, with the whole... lack of explaining the game does, but... no, a flower doesn't spawn when you die if you haven't ALREADY eaten one. Little context, each time you hibernate/survive a cycle, your karma/enlightenment goes up. There are gates in the game with these karma symbols on them, and you have to survive however many cycles it says you have to, to leave through that gate into another region. When you die, your karma goes down, so you have to survive quite a few cycles in a row before you can progress. It's a punishing system.
Karma Flowers stop your karma from decreasing the next time you die. If you make it back to where you perished the first cycle after dying with the flower, there will be a new one for you eat, there. It's to help make the game easier, but it's not a necessity. You can beat the entire game without ever eating one. You can definitely still lose hours of progress, but-- From my extremely extended time with the title, lemme tell you—the most valuable progress you can make is internal. You shouldn't try to brute force this game... If you're not making progress, embrace that. Stay close to your shelter, learn your new environment. Observe closely, figure out how to navigate the region quickly without using your map, where all the food is (denoted by blue dots on the map, by the way, though some food is unmarked you'll definitely find bats at the blue dots, for sure. Bats move somewhere else usually after you disturb them, so check that map!) I'm on my third/fourth playthrough, and regions that I had gotten stuck in for real world weeks on my first playthrough-- places where I repeatedly starved, drowned, and was brutally killed... Places I was lost in and scared by-- I can now move through with relative ease, only taking a couple cycles. That's not true for all places in the game, some of them still... HATE ME. But, it's a grand time. What can I say? I like pain... And Rain World is so massive, you can keep the pain going WAYYY after you initially beat the game, and still discover plenty. I hadn't even seen 4 WHOLE REGIONS of the game during my first playthrough, these areas were MASSIVE and daunting to conquer, some of my new favourite places in the game-- and now I've seen everything but I've pursued the game's most difficult challenges and achievements. There's always something crazy to chase after, things I looked at or heard about and went "I will NEVER be able to do that," and now I'm doing it!!!
It's got some jank, but-- if you're the sort of player who will get Rain World, you will FALL IN LOVE. (and it's worth experiencing part of it, even if you aren't, just to see one of the most unique games in recent memory, to expand your understanding of what games are capable of) One of my all-time favourites, now.
(Also, I'm really not sure the reviewer finished this one, or got ANYWHERE near finishing it, if they gave it a 7+. There is a region in the game that is ENTIRELY pitch black, and brimming with disgusting spider creatures, that swarm over your body from the darkness. The atmosphere is OPPRESSIVE and HORRIFYING. And... no spoilers, but the ending is also very intense. And what 7 year old will have the skills or patience to even beat this thing?? That's mainly why I put it as 13+, some rare moments of genuine terror and violence, plus... a younger person CAN play it if they have a higher than average tolerance for fear, but I don't know if it would appeal to them yet.)
There isn't much of a story in RAIN WORLD. The game begins with a few still images, static shots of a slug cat (a creature that's a slug and also a cat) being plucked by the elements away from its family and planted onto a ravaged, bleak world of urban decay. From there, your adventure starts, and, in all seriousness, the game doesn't tell you much else about where to go or what to do. It's up to you to figure it out as you make it deeper in -- if you even get that far.
It's tough to sum up this adventure as being simply good or bad, but it's easy to say it will not be for everyone. From the very beginning, you're expected to improvise to survive. But what the game doesn't tell you is how to do that. Most of the game is in an alien language and has an inscrutable tip system (it seems like tiny wriggling neon lines are either indicating enemies, are enemies, or are pointing to specific things you should be doing, but it doesn't say what or why). It's doubtful anyone but the extremely patient or stubborn will progress very far in the game, which can be painted as a positive or a negative. If you're looking for a challenge for its own sake, this might be your game. If you're looking for a challenge where you're given the tools to survive, so you can slowly become adept and then proficient, this isn't your game.
For example, something that the game doesn't explain: You have to eat to hibernate, hibernate to survive, and survive to explore the full world map. Each time you die, the game doesn't tell you this, but a flower emerges at your spot of death, and you have to eat it to preserve your hibernation level. Only after you do that will it serve as a "flag" being planted in the area as you solve the rest of the area's puzzles (mainly navigating platforms and how to get from A to B). In other words, it's entirely possible to log several hours, then lose all your progress because you forgot to do a tiny thing the game never said you should do or even could do in the first place. The game's intended to be bleak and punishing. You have to be that sort of player to appreciate and welcome this sort of thing. But many will be too turned off to find the outermost reaches of the game's colossal map and the secrets they contain. Either way, prepare to die and fail a lot.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about why too much of a certain element in a creative work can overpower it. Games are like any other medium, but can you think of a movie or book or TV show you've read where there's a structural element of the story that seems to overtake the rest of its focus? How could you tell?
Why is bleakness in video games in particular so enduringly popular? What elements in Rain World have you seen again and again in other games? How are they different here?
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