Rainswept, a murder mystery point and click adventure originally released on PC Xbox, and PS4 in 2019, made its way over to handhelds on the Nintendo Switch in 2020.
At its surface, Rainswept is a simple point and click murder mystery game with basic gameplay and some goofy, noodle-limbed characters.
Once the player is immersed however, the game reveals some charming art and sound design, and a mature and thoughtfully written narrative, touching on relatable themes of loss, grief, and relationship struggles,
The game is great for it’s storytelling, simple yet great art design, and immersive sounds – but is held back at times by poor movement controls and character animations.
It should be prefaced by saying that Rainswept, despite its relaxing atmosphere and comical character animations, tells a story with some very unrelaxing themes. This is not a game for kids, or those who are uncomfortable with themes of mental illness, death, and abuse.
The story of Rainswept is an interesting and complex one. It’s a story that’s easy to get immersed in when combined with the game’s great soundtrack and ambient sounds.
The game puts you in the shoes of Detective Stone, a big city cop who is investigating the apparent murder-suicide of a young couple in the quiet little town of Pineview. As one would expect, the seasoned detective quickly picks up that things aren’t the way they seem.
The narrative is a classic ‘Whodunit’ story, but interwoven with small pieces of the main characters’ own personal struggle with loss and mental illness along the way, as well as the struggles of the young couple before their death. The details of these struggles are slowly drip fed to you throughout the game, in moments such as nightmares which Detective Stone experiences, and flashbacks from the victims perspective.
Additionally, each character is unique and has a story of their own, which the player discovers in their investigations. The writers did a great job of making the town of Pineview and its characters feel lifelike and realistic, despite the limitations of the game.
The story telling of Rainswept is the strongest pillar propping this game up. If you’re a gamer who can appreciate a narrative with deep and mature themes, this is an enjoyable experience for the story alone.
Being essentially a point and click game with some side scrolling movement, the gameplay of Rainswept is simple but effective.
Gameplay involves visiting areas in Pineview such as a cafe, church, hospital, and of course the crime scene, in order to gather evidence and speak with the townsfolk.
Once Detective Stone has completed the objectives for the day, the player must walk back to his hotel at night and sleep. This is the basic formula of gameplay which is repeated until the end of the game. This may seem repetitive, but it works well, due to the game being narrative driven rather than focusing on complex gameplay.
There are a few rare moments in the gameplay break up this formula, such as during Detective Stone’s nightmares, and flashback sequences. These moments feel more impactful and memorable because of their rarity, as well as offering a change in environment and music.
As for the controls, most actions are performed with the ABXY buttons, and the map and objectives are opened with the D-pad. The player can traverse the side scrolling town of Pineview using the joysticks, and run using the R button.
There is no major issue with the controls here. The game is not one that demands complex controls, but this also means nothing in the controls of the game stands out as revolutionary, they just do the job – mostly.
There are some very minor bugs and oversights in the control scheme, but nothing game breaking. For example, using the D-pad opens your map with up, notes with left, and right opens your to-do list, you can also press the same button again to close them.
However, for your to-do list, pressing the same button again (right arrow), does nothing. You need to use either the up or left arrow to open your map or notes respectively, and then press those buttons again to exit. This is a minor issue, and a slight inconvenience, but a small oversight nonetheless which makes the already simple menus of the game seem even cheaper.
The visuals of rainswept are basic flat blocky 2D characters and backgrounds, which are sharp and crisp on the Switch’s native screen, and the bright and lively colours really pop.
The cutscenes in the game also show some very nice cinematography, with some cutscenes that are storyboarded in a film like structure. The game’s text boxes are also nice and minimalistic, and the D-pad menus are functional, but nothing special visually.
The simplicity of the game’s graphics works for the aforementioned things, but it really affects one of the most important aspects, it’s character design, The simple expressionless faces and disproportionate bodies of the characters create a dissonance between the comical graphics and the mature and serious plot. This is only made worse by the ridiculous movement animations. This isn’t a huge deal for most people, as the graphics serve their purpose, and don’t take away hugely from the plot, but for some, this may be a drawback.
The graphics however, specifically the character animations, are the sole drawback of this game. It makes one wonder how incredible the game would be with better visuals that added more to the story. This is understandable however as the developer Frostwood Interactive is an indie studio, and when seen from this perspective, it is impressive what they did with less resources than most development studios.
The audio of rainswept compliments the game nicely. The game opens with a beautiful solemn piano piece that sets the tone of what’s to come in a fantastic way, and later in the game the background tracks help to add emotion and suspense during pivotal points in the game’s plot. This combined with the ambient sounds such as rain, thunder, and birds, really helps to immerse the player into Rainswept’s plot.
There is unfortunately some oversights, and small bits of audio that are missing, which would have benefited the game significantly in subtle ways. The game offers great ambient background noise, but is completely missing things like footstep sounds when walking, sounds when interacting with objects and people, and even simple auditory cues when navigating menus and text boxes, such as a simple yet satisfying click when advancing text or opening a menu. While these are minor things, they are a staple in most games, and often a minor detail which goes overlooked in most games until they are gone. They are an important aspect which is often overlooked and are an underestimated indicator of the developers’ care in developing their game.
Aside from these minor details, the soundtrack of the game goes beyond just serving its purpose, and plays a big role in setting the game’s tone and aesthetic.
Thank you to Frostwood Interactive for the review code!