Rain World is a beautiful game. There's not much that can be said about its aesthetic that isn't immediately obvious upon glancing at a few screenshots, but it's the kind of game that does a lot with very little. The environments are haunting but fascinating, and every pixel of dilapidated factory tells a story as long as the player is willing to interpret it. The enemies, many of which spell instant death should the protagonist get even a little too close to them, are still intriguing even while they are terrifying - why do those centipedes glow? Why are their movements so unnatural?
It's not hard to see that even when Rain World struggles, it does it in a way that is at the very least more endearing than frustrating. Sometimes the enemy AI is, to put it mildly, totally ridiculous, their behavior borderline unexplainable, but then again, the world of Rain World is such that it's difficult to explain anything and be certain its the correct assumption. Even while lizard enemies repeat the same cycle of climbing, stumbling across a platform, and careening off of it to the floor, it's more humorous than gamebreaking. Given how bleak Rain World can be, and how punishing its design is for anyone who doesn't feel comfortable with constantly dying to learn what to do in specific areas, those little breaks aren't even that unwelcome anyways.
Rain World is a platformer at its heart, and it behaves like one for the most part, although it incorporates a heavy amount of survival genre tropes on top of the typical gameplay one might expect from a game that is ostensibly about traversing one environment to the next while avoiding enemies. The protagonist, the Slugcat, needs to eat to hibernate properly, and food is scarce. If a player takes too long on any one cycle, the world threatens to be deluged with rain, which spells an instant game over. This can be prevented by seeking shelter, where the player will hibernate until the rain is done - but they need to be properly fed to successfully do it and save their progress, or else they risk resetting to the last cycle that they had a full stomach on if they die.
While it's likely possible to beat Rain World in a much more condensed span of time, the game has the ability to engross for tens of hours despite a relatively small world. There are puzzles or monsters lurking around nearly every corner, and they will often require a lot of circling back or retries after death. Despite this, though, Rain World never feels inherently unfair - not more than would be natural for something like our hero Slugcat going up against an entire world that seems hellbent on eating it. When players succeed at surviving a particularly difficult encounter or, even better, navigating around it so it never becomes too threatening, there's a sense of accomplishment there. Playing the underdog isn't always fun, but in Rain World, it really is.
That cyclical gameplay makes exploration feel just rushed enough to be tense without sacrificing the ability to play Rain World at a reasonable pace. It's a good balance and one that not every survival-style game manages to strike, so developer Videocult deserves a ton of praise for managing that in a way that doesn't make players want to put their controller through their television screens. In the case of Rain World's Switch port, that would be especially costly.
The Switch port also gives players a preview of what is to come for the game's PS4 version, incorporating Patch 1.7 into the launch ahead of when it arrives on Sony's console. The biggest change is the introduction of two new character classes - the Monk and the Hunter. These classes basically represent difficulties, and they will allow players to better balance gameplay for themselves. Rain World on Switch also includes new beasts to battle and local multiplayer functionality, the latter of which is an absolute blast and comes highly recommended, even though it does feel a little clumsy sometimes.
Rain World is a game that will still frustrate those of us with lackluster reflexes and platforming ability, and it definitely has its flaws, the biggest of which is a story that can take a really, really long time to get into because of how scattershot it is. Ultimately, however, that's pretty easy to ignore thanks to a unique approach to its genre and a design philosophy that ambitiously tasks its players with uncovering both how to survive and why they should bother. There's no handholding in Rain World - okay, maybe a little, in the new Monk version of the game, but even that's minimal - and it's refreshing in a sense. It's not the way every game should be designed, but it's a good fit for Rain World, and it's combination of platforming and survival elements will keep those who aren't turned off by its challenge coming back for more as they chip away at the hours of content hidden away beneath the grime and dirt.
Rain World is available now in North America on Nintendo Switch for $19.99. Screen Rant was provided with a digital download code for this review.