Rainswept – Review
Rainswept is a Twin Peaks-esque adventure mystery about relationships and trauma. Did it grind up our hearts like fresh coffee? Here’s what we think.
Right, look, we just need to give it a formal name at this point. We need to drag it out before the social consciousness and solemnly knight it. “Rise,” the collective voice of pop culture would announce, “Sir Twinpeakspunk”. Or maybe northwestdetectivepunk? Oh well, on to Rainswept.
Rainswept is a pinepunk adventure game, and it fits snugly into the genre’s cozy trappings. Big city detective Michael Stone is dispatched to investigate a murder-suicide in the small town of Pineview. As he questions the locals of Pineview, he learns that all is not as it seems. As if that wasn’t enough, Michael is also grappling with severe psychological trauma that bleeds into this work.
There’s every reason to believe that Rainswept is a mystery thriller—it’s got a gruff detective hero, a helpful assistant from the Sheriff’s office, uncooperative local authorities, lots of suspicious locals to question, and enough cigarettes to ruin a dozen lungs.
But it turns out Rainswept is a relationship drama in disguise. It’s a game about the ties that make us and break us, about the trauma that digs deep wounds, and thankfully—it’s a game about what can be done about it.
Not long after Michael arrives in the picturesque town of Pineview, he finds that the sheriff’s office is keen on wrapping up the case before an upcoming local festival. Indeed, the case seems quite open-and-shut: the death of a reportedly argumentative young couple in their own house. Much to the local sheriff’s chagrin, Michael insists on investigating every lead and doing things by the book, in which he finds support from his local assistant, officer Amy Blunt.
As the duo investigate the incident, they learn more about the couple’s life leading up to its tragic end. Intermittent playable flashbacks take us back to the life of Chris and Diane as they first meet and bond over time.
Strong attention to detail is what helps Rainswept succeed as a story about relationships. It breathes life into the characters, and it understands what makes people tick, how people are affected by relationships.
However, as the mystery of both the past and present unravels, a curious thread becomes apparent. In Rainswept, women take a secondary role to the problems haunting men. The game certainly does not discriminate in dealing out tragedy and trauma to its characters, but in both timelines, it’s the men who tell the stories. Each tragedy that affects the women is ultimately filtered through the lens of how it affects the men they’re associated with, be it as a lover, a colleague, or a relative.
It’s not quite severe, and indeed, much grander games have treated their female characters much worse. It does dampen what could have been a fresher script.
There are issues in the script that could be fixed though. Inconsistent punctuation is one, but the script occasionally slips up in its use of dialect. Despite the seemingly North American setting of the game, characters use “bloody” as an intensifier, talk about their “mums”, and “click” photos. After a point, it became endearing.
Strong as the game’s sense of characterisation is, it ends up being quite light on the whole mystery thriller element. A handy journal documents everything you know about the case, but you meet and question so many people so quickly, that it fills up rather quickly. There was so much information that I found it hard to devise my own theories on what might have happened.
The gameplay doesn’t encourage any crime-solving on your part either, as your interaction is mostly limited to running around, talking to people, and occasionally picking up and using objects. The linear gameplay holds your hand to cut a straight and narrow path through all the information in your journal, leading to a fairly simple conclusion, all things said and done.
Rainswept could really have been a visual novel, but then we would’ve missed watching the characters run left and right on their comically spindly legs.
Rainswept’s visuals are simplistic by design. Characters are defined simply by their hair, skin colour, and a pair of tiny, beady eyes. Backgrounds use simple but concordant textures, or even solid colours. The animations are floaty, and sometimes even unintentionally comical, such as when Michael collapses to the floor after a traumatic flashback.
It’s an art style that reminds me of the thriftily-developed Flash games you’d find on Newgrounds back in the mid-2000s. It didn’t take me too long to settle in to the style, partly thanks to the engrossing story, but largely thanks to the cinematic soundtrack.
Much of the game takes place in complete silence, without so much as sound effects to represent the characters talking. When the music does appear, though, it elevates the emotion of the scene, be it the intensity of the mystery, the calm of a budding relationship, or the tumult of trauma.
For a game developed almost entirely by one individual (Armaan Sandhu handled everything except the music), Rainswept is a compelling effort. It’s a heartfelt game that does its best to portray the messiness of relationships and the damage that trauma can do if left to fester.
Developer: Frostwood Interactive
Country of Origin: India
Publisher: Frostwood Interactive
Release Date: 1 February 2019
Platforms: PC and Mac
This review of Rainswept is based on a copy provided by the developer.
For more information on Rainswept, check out our previous coverage of the game here.