Among Rain World's best tricks is that it doesn't end with you. Fall afoul of the reptiles who coil and flop through its moulting, fungal catacombs and you'll be dragged to a crevice and swiftly guzzled. The restart prompt appears, but you're under no pressure to hit the button, and really, what's your hurry? Death is an opportunity to enjoy Joar Jakobsson's chiselled 16-bit aesthetic and the game's AI ecosystem at leisure, freed from the rat-race of its core mechanics.
Pity the slugcat, a creature that has never before managed to step from the shadow of the grander, more celebrated mythical chimeras: the griffins, the centaurs, the Tricos. In part, that's because its arrangement of animal parts is peculiarly grotesque: the twitching feline nose and inquisitive ears mashed incongruously with the fat slimy torso of a common slug. But there's also a question of temperament. The griffin is part-lion, part-eagle, an apex predator squared, and as such can afford to be known. The slugcat, by contrast, sits just couple of links from the bottom of the food chain, able to catch bats and bluebottles, but otherwise hunted by just about every other carnivore on the block. No wonder the slugcat is absent from Greek myth: his survival depends upon anonymity.
In Rain World, a post-apocalyptic, tumbledown city of steel rafters, rusty poles and weed-clogged drainpipes, you soon learn the value of maintaining a low profile as a slugcat. The city is overrun with luminous crocodiles, vultures, ravenous plants and a growing menagerie of other predatory horrors, with their slick, whipping tails and flapping jaws. You quickly learn to slurp through pipes and quiver beneath ferns, only emerging to grab and munch on a passing bat when you're certain that you're otherwise safe and alone. With your brilliant white fur, you stand out a mile in this grey city. Slugcat has been separated from his family to boot. As such, you are not only noticeable, but isolated.
As soon as a predator eyes you, it charges, jack-knifing over curbs in an effort to grab you in its jaws. If you fail to escape, it's an immediate game over. Rain World's unkind designers then send you way back to the last safe space - usually a prison-cell-sized nook, somewhere deep below ground, or inside a forsaken building. There are no Dark Souls-esque drops to reclaim from the site of your death. You have nothing to show for your lost progress, save for the mental map you may have accrued of the area, the usefulness of which is then undercut by the fact that the placement of enemies dynamically shifts on each reload.
UPDATE 14/03/2017 8.42pm: The Vita and Wii U versions of Rain World are still on the docket, albeit on the backburner since PS4 and Steam are the developer's main priorities.
Moody exploratory adventure Rain World is coming to Vita, via publisher Adult Swim.
We knew that the upcoming Tokyo Jungle-esque survival adventure Rain World looked glorious in trailers and now the developer has demonstrated its stealth systems in detail in the following two minute clip.
"This isn't some scripted trailer with cool editing and pounding music to get you hyped (ha!), but just me playing an easy level of Rain World, trying not to die too quickly," developer James Primate said in a Kickstarter update.
Primate pointed out a few neat details that are easy to miss, like the player character's eyes darting towards things that interest it, ala Link in The Wind Waker. The enemy lizards are colour-coded to display either their mood or simply make them easier to tell apart, but they have completely different AI structures. "Can you tell what the Teal lizard is thinking?" Primate asked. "Notice how he anticipates your movements when coming in for the attack. But also note that despite all its intelligence and aggressive behavior, the patient green lizard is the one that gets me in the end." Clever girl.
Steam has accepted its latest batch of 50 titles on its Greenlight service, including a couple of recent feline-based favourites.
Like Hyper Light Drifter before it, Rain World emerged on Kickstarter out of nowhere and boy does it look good!