It’s as good a metaphor as any.
If you’re the sort of person who reads meaning into things, the rain is perfect for that; and the first one usually involves tears.
There’s plenty of sadness here to go around, starting with the main character. Just one look at this poor guy tells you an awful lot: the droopy trench coat, the expressionless face, the perpetual five-o-clock shadow and dark circles under the eyes, the cigarette permanently welded to his fingers. Then you meet him and he delivers his lines with a laconic distractedness that confirms your impression. He’s got everything but “Man on the Edge” stamped on his forehead.
By day he’s a burned out detective caught between working to solve a suspiciously clear-cut murder and wrestling with his personal demons. By night he’s the kind of guy who walks the lonely streets without an umbrella, taking the long route back to his empty hotel room.
On the other side of the equation lie the victims, whose tragic relationship unfolds in retrospect, hidden away from prying eyes in this sleepy little mountain town.
That’s where the rain takes on another role, like a curtain that divides the everyday world from a stage where the elemental forces of human drama can play out. Max Payne did the same thing with its apocalyptic blizzard, transforming New York City into a mythic Gotterdammerung of explosive retribution.
The tone is more pensive and melancholy here, communicated in large part through dreamy soft-focus imagery. It may not look like much at first glance, but they have a real eye for creating some pretty striking scenes that convey a conflict in and of themselves.
The most eye-catching parts tend to have a similar visual theme. They pull back the camera until the characters are dwarfed against vast natural backdrops of sky, trees and water, as if to suggest their smallness in the face of cosmic-sized forces; but to counterbalance, there are the bustling small-town streets full of shops and people, each with their own quirks and struggles. The contrast highlights the graveness of the challenge, but also offers hope that life goes on.
And here the rain serves yet another function, as an agent of cleansing, washing away the accumulated fears, mistakes and regrets. Each character in their own way emerges from the deluge renewed, vindicated, or at least understood.
There’s an awful lot they’re trying to weave together here; and while it doesn’t always work they make a thoroughly honest effort. I think that’s what I found most endearing about this game.
Sure, it doesn’t look so great at least half of the time. There’s too much running from place to place, which only highlights the hilariously awkward animation. At times the dialogue can be as clunky and unnatural as the running; and the interactive side is pretty non-existent, even for a story-focused point-and-click game. Still, their heart was in the right place here. Even when they fall short, it’s in a genuine attempt to communicate rather than obscure.
One distinct tell that they really mean it is the way they talk about loss in terms of concrete imagery as opposed to vague, mushy abstractions. You start to think that maybe they’ve learned too well by experience the real language of grief. It’s the difference between calculated emotional manipulation and a game that really has something to say.
I hope they keep making games. Maybe this one wasn’t always firing on all cylinders; but it shows a lot of potential.
Just don’t watch too closely while this guy runs around town and you’ll be fine.