Almost two years after its debut on Steam and PlayStation 4, Boston MA developer VIDEOCULT sees it’s popular survival platformer, Rain World, ported and released on the Nintendo Switch platform. This is our Switch review of Rain World.
In this 2-D side-scrolling, survival platformer you, as the player, take on the role and avatar of a “nomadic slugcat”. You have cat-like ears, two beady eyes and a body akin to Jabba The Hutt or a slug. A torrential storm has separated you from your family so you’re on a quest to reunite with them. You need to work your way through a maze of grimly shaded screens, mostly shaded black and greys, trying to forage for food and avoid natural predators. Sounds pretty stereotypical, right? The nuance here is that you need to advance through the current level in a timely fashion. At the start of a cycle, a countdown begins for when the next torrential “monsoon-like” rainfall occurs. You need to be in a safe place before this happens.
The game gives you little help as to what you need to do or where you need to go. Your slugcat can jump, crawl and use the debris as weapons, e.g. sticks and stones, to avoid and hurt predators while looking for food. Debris can also be used to reach unreachable areas, this mechanic adds a layer of “puzzle” layer to the game as well. Filling your belly helps you hibernate in hard to find designated safe rooms. Successful hibernation acts as your autosave which saves off your progress. If you don’t find a place to hibernate when the cycle ends, and the flash flood wipes across your screen, then it’s “game over dude” and you need to restart the current level.
This version of the game allows you to play as a “monk” or a “hunter” where the monk is intended to be easier. I, of course, selected the monk type but saw little relief in how many times I ran out of time. It’s the age-old predicament of whether to search every nook and cranny and trying to reach that visible, but unreachable, tunnel to explore, all while being on a timer versus submitting to a “Run Forrest Run!” game approach. I found crawling up sticks, crawling and squirming through tunnels fluid and responsive while being aggravated by missing key jumps.
According to VideoCult, the animation is “a combination of code and traditional animation. This makes them soft and bendable, and responsive to their surroundings.” This animation translated perfectly to the Switch giving creatures a bendy snake-ish fluid look to them as seen in the screenshot, taken from their website, below:
Rain World does an excellent job in letting you know when the cycle ends, sometimes too much so as the game makes heavy use of the rumble function to let you know the end is nigh. It kicks up the volume especially when that storm you’ll see often approaches from the right side of your screen. In fact, the rumble intensity, in undocked mode, was so loud at times that my wife could hear it ten feet away while I was playing while watching television. Couple that with the intense screen shaking, all while under the final seconds of the cycle timer, can raise the intensity and stress a little bit at the end of each cycle. Another minor complaint is that it was difficult to initially see stones and sticks on the ground as they blended in quite well being black on black.
To provide some navigation assistance the game has a map screen by holding down “R” but it’s rendered requiring you to hold down the “R” button until it appears. This felt awkward at times and it took a while to remember to hold down the “R” button versus tapping it. There are also occasional on-screen cues that provide a small hint of where to go so you’re not completely unguided, just minimally.
As a side note, the game does offer a Multiplayer Arena mode for up to 4 players, featuring Competitive and Sandbox modes. Unfortunately, I was unable to take part in this. It looks like this mode also allows you to select your “playing” field from environments seen in the single-player mode.