Developer: Frostwood Interactive
Rainswept is a 2D detective adventure game that is available to play on PC, Mac and Linux. This unassuming indie game delivers not only an enjoyable experience but is also an example of powerful storytelling that I really wasn’t expecting. That’s not to say I was expecting it not to be very good, but rather that it took me off guard and it wasn’t the game I expected it to be. On first impressions Rainswept may look like a standard murder investigation detective game but it’s so much more than that. It does a fantastic job at tackling difficult themes people aren’t so comfortable talking about such as relationship breakdowns, suicide and grief.
Tradgey strikes a Small Town
Detective Michael Stone arrives in the sleepy quaint town of Pineview to investigate the death of a young couple. Your role as Detective Stone is to piece together what actually happened to the unfortunate couple, Chris and Diane. Was it a murder/suicide? A double murder? Sounds like a typical case from a CSI episode. Either way two people are dead and your job is to unravel the truth.
Detective Stone is a chain smoking shadow of his former self as he is trying to cope with his own personal problems while trying to maintain a facade of normality. The deeper he gets into the investigation, the harder he finds coping with everyday life. It becomes clear early on that Stone is struggling. He has flashbacks and nightmares to a previous traumatic event that begin to interfere and affect him during his investigative work.
Every night Detective Stone retires to his hotel room and when he does eventually fall to sleep he slips into terrifying nightmares. You get to play through his surreal dream sequences which help illustrate the inner torment that Stone is trying to bury and keep from those around him. These sequences change the tempo of the gameplay as they are strange and have their own set of rules; much like real dreams.
During the day you’re partnered with Officer Blunt who works for the local Pineview police department. Together you go around the town questioning the locals and piecing together the events leading up to Chris and Diane’s death. As you unravel their tragic story, you get to play through key moments from the couple’s past through Chris’ point of view. Switching between Detective Stone and Chris’ gameplay mixes up the narrative in a way that keeps the story interesting.
A Fresh Approach
Although from first impressions Rainswept may look like a traditional point and click game, it’s unusual as it does not have your typical point and click control system. The mouse cursor is used to select objects of interest which then brings up a radial menu giving you a choice of what you want to do e.g. look, talk or use. Pretty standard stuff for an adventure game. However where things differ are the controls related to character movement as it is based on the WASD keyboard movement more commonly associated with 3D gaming. There’s only one section of the game that involves moving the character up and down (if I remember correctly) so the rest of the game consists of you moving your character with A and D across the various scenes.
I found this control scheme a bit awkward to use when I was playing the game on my laptop. If I was playing it on my desktop it probably would have felt more natural but I don’t always want to sit at my desk to play games. If I’ve sat at a desk all day at work please forgive me for wanting to get comfy on the sofa in the evening! I found a quick solution to this and found the game controls work really well when using my Steam controller. It didn’t take me long to remap the keyboard controls to the buttons on the controller and didn’t have an issue after this.
At the time of writing this review the game currently doesn’t have native controller support so players who are unfamiliar with the customisation options for controllers in Steam will have to stick with the native mouse and keyboard for now. As this review goes out an update is currently being worked on which will add controller support and is due to be released soon. It’s great to see that the developer has listened to initial user feedback and is constantly tweaking and improving the game post release.
Simple but effective
The simplistic 2D art style and animation is similar to South Park and, although may look fairly basic, is utilised in creative ways. The landscapes look lovely, and along with the music and moving narrative, creates an atmosphere that draws you into the world. At times the camera zooms in to focus on individual rooms and then pans out again when you leave to reveal the bigger picture, the external building and environment around you. I thought this was a nice touch and makes a change to a simple bog-standard scene transition.
The soundtrack compliments the varying scenes well, which is even more important because there is no voice acting. In my opinion it doesn’t need it. The background music does it’s job at setting the tone and was composed by Micamic who was also behind the music of The Cat Lady from Harvester Games.
A Thought Provoking Experience
Easily the stand out element of Rainswept is it’s captivating story. At one point I originally planned to play for a short while before I went to bed but I got sucked into the story so much that I couldn’t stop and I had to carry on. What was supposed to be a quick game session turned into a very late night where I finished the game. One minute I was convinced it was suspect A who was guilty, then a new revelation made me think it was suspect B. I don’t want to give away too much and spoil it, all I will say is there are a lot of twists and turns to keep you guessing.
The game is well-written and does a fine job of creating a whodunit mystery while simultaneously tackling difficult issues relating to mental health. I genuinely wasn’t expecting the story to be as emotive as it was. Themes of depression, suicide, domestic abuse and grief are handled articulately. I work for a mental health trust for my day job so this is something that is close to my heart. Anything that raises awareness and gets people talking about such issues is always a positive thing in my book.
Also available DRM free from GOG.com
This game was provided by Frostwood Interactive for the purpose of this review.