It starts with a gunshot to the head. Well, actually, Rainswept starts with a warning that the game contains references to suicide. So straight away it’s clear that despite the pastel colours and slightly cartoonlike 2D graphics, this will be a dark and emotional ride. Developer Frostwood Interactive do their best to deliver on their promise of an adult story with powerful themes, featuring a detective with a messed-up mind and a murder mystery that isn’t quite what it seems. In some standout scenes, with the help of a melancholic soundtrack, they succeed. But Rainswept has a lot in common with Night in the Woods, not just its palette but also large parts of its narrative (lonely protagonist and creepy goings-on in small town America) and gameplay (interacting with the local characters through dialogue choices). Whilst games borrow from and expand on each other all the time, here the comparison only highlights the elements that don’t quite meet Rainswept’s high ambitions, packing a torrent of emotional beats into just a few hours of gameplay when a steady drip would have been more impactful.
You’ll recognize protagonist Michael Stone as soon as you see him. He’s the archetypal detective featured in so many other games, films and books: chain-smoking, unshaven, jaded and lacking in sleep, with dark thoughts on his mind. He’s arrived in the small town of Pineview to help out the local police force with what they believe to be an open and shut case – a murder-suicide of local couple Chris and Diane, who were seemingly having marital issues leading up to the incident (therapy is much more expensive than a gun these days). Naturally, there’s more to it than meets the eye, both with the case and with Detective Stone, who suddenly has a violent vision at the start of the investigation, creating some kind of new world record for “shortest length of time before my co-workers get concerned I’m probably not fit for this job.”
Graphically the game has a light cartoonish touch: people have button eyes but no mouths, and character animations are a little comical. For example, the protagonist’s long bandy legs never quite seem in sync with the rest of his body when you’re moving him about. It certainly adds a level of comic eccentricity to the experience, but the quirky tone can feel a bit off at times, especially considering the mature subject matter.
As the dysfunctional Stone, you’ll navigate the 2D streets and bars, shops and houses of Pineview using the keyboard. Points of interest pop up as a magnifying glass icon as you walk past them. When clicked, hotspots open up verb coin options of looking at, using, or talking to the object or person in question. The developers are reportedly also working on a mouse cursor option that doesn’t require being near objects to interact with them. While this feature wasn’t available at the time of my playthrough, its absence didn’t really cause an issue because there’s very little in the way of puzzles here, and not a huge number of objects are vital to the story. Any slight challenges, such as getting a dog to let go of an important photograph (as you do), rely mainly on picking up an item nearby (usually in the same screen) and then using it.
Much like Night in the Woods, the lack of puzzles seems intentional. Rainswept is a narrative-focused game rather than a gameplay-heavy one. Detective Stone only has a few days to try to wrap up the case before the town’s big festival comes, and the chief has more important matters to attend to (small town cops apparently love festivals). The story is split into these distinct days, with each one more or less starting with our investigator waking up and meeting his partner Officer Blunt in the cafe for a lowdown on the objectives he should look into for that day, whether that be meeting the coroner or interviewing a potential suspect.
You’re then free to travel around Pineview and carry out these plans in any order you see fit, and can interact with various characters around town that are going about their daily lives, just for the hell of it. There’s a rudimentary pop-up map that can be used to guide you to your goals, but the street system takes a little bit of getting used to, and often it’s more fun just wandering around anyway. You can check your objectives at any point or even bring up the journal where Detective Stone writes all of his notes about the case, though you’ll never need to refer to any of these to solve anything, so it’s more just for show, or for remembering the names of the people you meet.
You can opt to completely ignore chatting and get on with cracking the case, but then you’d be missing out on some of the game’s best moments. Whether helping come up with lyrics for a street guitarist’s latest song; rolling your eyes at Grandpa, the town’s resident elderly lothario; or shooting the breeze with a group of teenage skaters, these fun little encounters make Pineview – and Rainswept as a whole – feel more alive, and as the days change so do the differing dialogue options. If anything, even more could have been made of these interactions: more people or different characters that pop up over time, or some secret areas to discover that would encourage you to explore that extra bit longer and create a richer world. As it stands, they’re just a fun but slight distraction to the main story.Continued on the next page...
What our readers think of Rainswept
Posted by Seo86 on Mar 3, 2019
Story A young couple named Chris and Diane are found dead in their home in the small town of Pineview. Diane has a bullet wound in her stomach and Chris has bullet wound on the side of his head. They are outsiders who moved in a few months previously. They...