On March 28, 2017, four years ago today, Videocult released their debut game, Rain World. In Rain World, you play as a little creature called a slugcat, desperately trying to survive the harsh world you were born into. It is a unique and challenging game unlike any other. Enigmatic, uncompromising, and beautiful.
2021 is the year of Rain World.
Why? I don’t know. But it is.
It released at first to very mixed reviews. As for major outlets, it received a 6.3/10 from IGN, and a 5/10 on Polygon. Most people agreed that the art and animation were stunning, but many found the game too difficult, punishing, and uncompromising to be enjoyable. Its mechanics are opaque and strange, and almost nothing is explained to the player. Janine Hawkins wrote in her review on Polygon:
In essence playing Rain World too often felt like trying to turn a screw with the wrong sized screwdriver — not just a challenge, but more as if I hadn’t been given the tools I needed for the task at hand.
I think a lot about it in the way Austin Walker has spoken about Far Cry 2. He refers to it as an “incoherent” game. It rejects and recontextualizes the structure of the first-person shooter. In this way, Rain World is an incoherent Metroidvania, and may be one of the most incoherent games I’ve ever played in my life. Its story, its structure, its controls, its world, they all seem to defy everything I know about games. (Austin, on the off-chance that you’re reading this, you should consider playing this game!)
Rain World is a game that broke me. I don’t know how else to explain it. It got under my skin, twisted my stomach. I think about games differently, about living differently. One day, I die to the same obstacle over and over again. The same mistake. The same death. I grit my teeth, I grip tight, I sweat and swear. I think about quitting. But I don’t.
So it’s impossible to recommend it without caveats. Rain World is one of the hardest games I’ve ever played. The term “hard but fair” gets thrown around sometimes. Rain World is not fair. It is not kind. It is unforgiving and uncaring about all your plight and failure. This is going to turn many, if not most players off completely.
But underneath all that is a vast, beautiful, and albeit frightening world that enchants me endlessly. It is full of mystery and terror in vibrant shades. I want to tell you all about this sprawling ecosystem, but I don’t even want to elaborate; I dare not steal the wonder of discovery away from you. It constantly surprises me.
I cannot stop thinking about Rain World. It’s in my bones now.
Here’s my review on Backloggd. I’ve spoilered the more thematic analysis in case people want to go in completely fresh.
“Destroy the darkness of delusion with the brightness of wisdom. The world is truly dangerous and unstable, without any durability. My present attainment of Nirvana is like being rid of a malignant sickness. The body is a false name, drowning in the great ocean of birth, sickness, old age and death. How can one who is wise not be happy when he gets rid of it?” - Gautama Buddha
Rain World is not a game about living. It’s not a game about dying. It’s a game about both. It’s about samsara.
Why do so many yearn for annihilation, for silence? Why are we caught between quiet and din? What are we tied to? How do we remember the past? How permanent is history? What is it made out of? Is it in objects? Is it in something spiritual? Is it in technology? What are the driving forces of technology? Can technology be spiritual? Why do we make machines? Why do we make them look like us? Why do we make them look so different from us? What do they do when we are gone? How different is technology and nature? What is nature in the first place? Is nature cruel? Is nature kind? What does it mean to be cruel, to be kind? Is there such a thing as morality in an ecosystem? What is nature made out of? What is an animal? What is the life of an animal? What is the life of two animals? What is the life of a thousand animals? What is life at all? What does it mean, really, to be living? Why is it so painful? Why do we go on? What do we need? What do we want?
“Say a body. Where none. No mind. Where none. That at least. A place. Where none. For the body. To be in. Move in. Out of. Back into. No. No out. No back. Only in. Stay in. On in. Still. All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” - Worstward Ho, Samuel Beckett
I am not, nor have I ever been, a spiritual person. I don’t think I ever will be. But Rain World helps me understand why people become Buddhists. This game was a spiritual experience for me. I mean that. I hate it, I love it, I am endlessly fascinated by it. It is an utterly singular game. I don’t think there has ever been or ever will be another game quite like Rain World.
One of the best games ever made. Beautiful, fascinating, haunting, terrifying. But it’s hard to recommend. It’s one of the hardest and most grueling games I’ve ever played. It’s profoundly frustrating. But it’s a masterpiece. Even without my unique connection to it, it is full of incredible ideas, beautiful art, and shocking design. It’s a vast ecosystem full of wonder and terror. It’s stunningly beautiful on almost every level. I feel it on a visceral level. It’s constantly on my mind. I cannot escape it; it’s inside me. It’s one of the best games ever made.
You might be reading all this and feel certain you would hate Rain World. That’s okay. I totally understand why. It’s not a game for a lot of people. Most, I would wager. This year, some moderators have started streaming the game on the WaypointCommunity Twitch Channel, which might be a preferable way for some to experience the game. I’d be more than happy to offer tips and tricks, too. The game also has a vibrant mod community, which you can learn a bit more about on RainDB.net. Videocult is working on a new game, too, and I cannot wait!
It may not be for you, but I think it’s worth at least taking a gander at this incredibly singular experience.