A murder-suicide in a sleepy town called Pineview in the 1990s, here’s my Rainswept Switch review – masterclass storytelling.
When I first read the premise behind Rainswept, it immediately struck some chords that it was a game that would appeal to me. In the fictitious Pineview, a murder-suicide takes place that causes understandable turmoil for the small community.
Assuming the role of the detective assigned to the case, you must question the citizens for leads into the crime. Could it possibly be a paint-by-numbers case, or is there something more sinister behind the event?
Rainswept Switch Review
You play Detective Michael Stone; a chain-smoker who has the fierce tenacity to determine the ‘why’ of the crime before the ‘who’. As an outsider, he receives a mixed welcome from the town’s residents – some keen to get the murder-suicide swept under the rug so they can have their celebrated community festival.
The Sheriff echoes that community spirit of indifference to the two victims of this crime and eager to have the case closed by lunch, so-to-speak. Still, Stone thinks otherwise as his interactions with the locals reveal some hidden secrets and take him down his fair share of detours before the outcome.
Rainswept, from Frostwood Interactive and 2Awesome Studio, is a bit similar to a point and click. Still, without an on-screen cursor or inventory, all points of interest can be highlighted by pressing the X button and cycling through the options with the L and R triggers – the A button to interact.
For the bulk of the time, the verb wheel will only allow Stone to examine and item or person, and talk to them. Occasionally, there might be the odd story element that requires an item to progress; in this case, the X button executes this.
Stone can be controlled directly by moving him left and right. When travelling to new locations (all on foot – no skateboards in this murder mystery), it’s a case of selecting the direction and pressing the A button – there’s no depth moving up and down to new areas.
The same applies for dialogue choices; they appear on the screen, and you can go through them in whichever manner you feel appropriate, and I believe a couple of them will further the story, so be careful with selections.
An Extended Arm(s)
Throughout the story, Stone is assisted by officer Blunt – a rookie of sorts who is eager to help in every way, and gives an insight into the locals when needed. Some of the residents are helpful, while others are dismissive of the outsider.
All the dialogue is text-based, and there isn’t any voice acting. Equally, there are no expressions on the faces of the characters, and they can be somewhat primitive in some respects.
In some of the interactive flashbacks, the ‘action sequences’ are a bit clumsy, and character arms seem a little too long for their bodies and awkward. There were a few moments where they were inconsistent with their shapes and scale also.
The visual style was nice, a bit like the The Unholy Society, but the animation was a little inept and comical when it shouldn’t have been. Additionally, the soundtrack was excellent. I hadn’t noticed it so much as it was pretty understated, but by the end credits, I was looking up the artist (Micamic if you’re interested).
Before I jump to the next section, I will say that the game didn’t offer any real challenge. There was only one puzzle I recall, and I solved that immediately – not because I’m smart, but it was easy.
Occasionally a dialogue choice may have changed the path in the game but generally speaking, it felt like it was on rails. There’s not much you could do wrong in the game as you can access your journal for hints at any time, and pull up a map if lost (but you only need it to familiarise yourself with street names now and again).
A Compelling Story
Without question, the story was the best thing about the game, and I could go as far and say it gets top marks on that alone.
Rainswept is expertly written in that throughout the playthrough, I felt I could sniff out any red herrings, but had a fair few moments of second-guessing my conclusions. By the time I had reached the ending, I wasn’t disappointed.
Without any spoilers, the story covers tragedy, loss, mental health and redemption. Just before the end sequence, I almost felt melancholy. That’s not an emotion I ever really want to explore, but it’s through the storytelling of relationships that did it – and that’s a massive positive.
I felt for the characters and knowing full well of their fate (it’s in the opening scene and the catalyst for the game), I couldn’t help but want to turn back time – to meddle in their affairs to prevent the inevitable.
But through the character-driven story, it’s almost as if all roads point to the same endpoint. Fate, you could say. Despite the lack of expression in character faces or their occasional clumsy body language, the characters in the game are wonderful, and this is portrayed in the dialogue – a rare treat where you don’t want to skip anything.
Some are a little one dimensional, such as the elderly bakery owner, but you get the impression that these characters would continue their lives if you weren’t asking them questions on where were they that fateful night? Pineview feels lived in, and while there’s closure by the time you finish Rainswept, I can’t help but want to see spin-offs, but I’m clutching at the way the game made me feel more than anything.
There”s an ugly truth on how communities ostracise those who don’t fit into the same cast as everyone else, and that’s very resonant in the game. It’s a fusion of misunderstanding, cliques and pig-headed ignorance in how we can all be judgemental – intentional or not, and through that, can make people isolated when they need it most.
I’m not spinning some academic yarn here to show off my prowess as it’s all been covered by the game really well. It raises some fundamental questions and executes its plot with such skill that I still need a pick-me-up to move on from the events of the story. Well done, Frostwood Interactive.