Behold the Slugcat! It’s an incredibly adorable creature, all fluffy and slinky. The Slugcat is able to get around by squirming through tubes, climbing on poles and jumping about. They’re fairly harmless, though, and that’s bad news for Slugcats that get separated from their pack. Lucky you: you get to try and help one of these Slugcats survive in Rain World, a ruined landscape pounded by flooding torrents of rain. It’s the latest in a series of quirky indie titles that have found homes with Adult Swim Games.
Look, make no mistake, Rain World is hard. Really, really hard. It’s brutal in a way few other games aspire to; even something like Dark Souls will let you level your way past most challenges. Rain World isn’t having any part of that. You’ll adapt and learn, particularly when it comes to the game’s finicky controls, or your Slugcat will die over and over and over again.
Given that you can only save at specific points sparsely located throughout the world, with these safe zones also serving as your checkpoints, you can expect to spend a lot of time replaying areas you’ve seen before. The rain is coming and you need to take shelter from time to time or be swept away; what’s more, you need to have eaten enough beforehand in order to properly hibernate, so you’ll need to put yourself in danger to get food between save points. Successfully making your way from one checkpoint to the next earns you a karma point; dying costs you a point, though there are a scant few ways to mitigate this loss. Many sections of the game won’t open without enough karma. Rain World wants you to do better. If you don’t, you won’t get anywhere.
If it were just you against the rain, that would be one thing, but it’s not; Rain World is populated with plenty of nasties to make your Slugcat regret their adorable, cuddly existence. You’ve got glowing crocodile-like creatures who rush toward any tasty treats they see, like you. You’ve got horrific insectoid creatures that pose as climbable objects only to drag you in for a meal. There are birds. Not much needs to be said about the birds. They’re awful.
What’s a Slugcat to do? Uh…run. Run from anything even remotely frightening, and hope that your escape route doesn’t lead you into something worse. You can pick up and throw small objects as an almost laughable form of self-defense. Flinging sharp things can help a little, but don’t expect miracles. If you survive, it will be thanks to stealth and speed, not badass combat maneuvers. Trial and error helps to some degree, but your real gains will come from understanding how your opponents think and act in order to help you avoid them. This is an ecosystem and thinking in that sense can help; you’re able to pit your opponents against each other and sneak by while they’re distracted, for instance. You’ll probably still die, though.
Your death will be visually appealing, at least. Rain World’s defining characteristic is its physics-based animation system, meaning that everything in the game, from the Slugcat to the myriad creatures that wish to dine upon it, move in realistic and believable ways. That goes double for the more disturbing creatures, like the aforementioned insects. Expect to shudder. The environment is fascinating as well in a somber, understated way, an aesthetic reinforced by the sound design.
I love games like this. Rain World doesn’t pull any punches. You have to fight for any progress you make, and the fight only gets harder as you go on. Success is incredibly gratifying right up until you run into the next horrible creature that will serve as a wall. It’s the same sort of “victory against impossible odds” theme that Souls indulges in, and said impossible odds mean that Rain World absolutely isn’t going to be for everyone. That said, if any part of this sounds appealing at all, you’d do well to give the game a shot. The Slugcats need you, after all. They’re just too tasty to survive on their own.