Dark secrets lie in the heart of small towns. Beneath a cheery exterior, tight-knit communities monitor their members’ movements, ready to jump on any behaviour that does not fit their ideals, no matter how insignificant or inane. Such a place is the setting for Rainswept, a murder mystery adventure game by solo developer Frostwood Interactive. Funded by a successful Indiegogo campaign, the final release features a few rough edges, but an otherwise compelling story.
In the small, damp town of Pineview, Detective Michael Stone is called in to investigate an apparent murder-suicide. The local police believe the case to be open-and-shut, with rumours of the couple squabbling and no signs of forced entry leaving little to challenge their assumptions. To Detective Stone, however, something does not feel right. Blood spatter appears in strange places, and the witness only heard one gunshot despite the presence of two victims. With only one week to investigate and his own past catching up with him, the pressure is on Stone to make every moment of the investigation count.
Rainswept plays like an old-school point-and-click adventure, with objects to examine, people to talk to, and items to collect. Detective Stone keeps a journal for the case, jotting down diagrams and information from the people he questions. Local police officer Amy Blunt accompanies Stone on his investigation, providing support and insight into the townspeople’s history. Story is the main focus, though the core gameplay loop consists of tracking down people of interest and finding out what they know. The relationship of the two victims, Chris and Diane, is told through flashbacks when finding relevant pieces of evidence.
For a title that presents itself as an adventure game, puzzles are surprisingly rare, with only a handful of occurrences throughout the game. To drop a photograph, a dog needs to be offered treats, which are provided by nearby shopkeepers. In a suspect’s house, a four-digit code has to be discerned to enter their basement, but with only one potential answer found in the house, the puzzle is solved all too easily. The detective work is all performed by Stone himself, rather than asking the player to draw conclusions from the evidence provided. Small choices can be made throughout the game, affecting Detective Stone’s relationship with the other characters, but by and large the player is a passive participant in the tale. While the story is strong enough to be an enjoyable ride, the lack of player agency is a missed opportunity. The weight of Telltale-style choices or a mechanic such as the detective minigames from popular investigative titles Ace Attorney or Danganronpa would take better advantage of Rainswept‘s medium.
A splash screen at the start of the game provides a trigger warning for suicide and trauma, and it is warranted; Rainswept deals with some dark themes. Detective Stone is pretty clearly dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: he experiences flashbacks, lost time, and becomes increasingly irritable and erratic as the case continues. The parallel storyline of Chris and Diane’s relationship also has unhealthy elements, with Diane alternating between walling herself away and lashing out at Chris to protect her feelings. Trauma is a really difficult concept to write, and Rainswept is a rare example of it done well. The characters are flawed but relatable, and the portrayal of their issues is largely realistic compared to the melodramatic Hollywood approach to mental illness one might be more familiar with. This strong character work holds the game together, while the desire to find out what happens next pulls the player through the five-hour run time.
Rainswept features beautiful, stylised graphics with flat panes of colour and few textures. Weather changes from day to day, rain and fog drenching the little autumnal town. The camera zooms in for small details and pans out for spectacular vistas, with the view from the church being breathtaking. Animations, on the other hand, are a little clunky; Detective Stone’s movement animation looks particularly awkward due to his trenchcoat not moving with his legs. Several different outfits can be changed into at the Detective’s hotel room, and removing the stiff trench-coat helps considerably.
Atmosphere is everything in a murder mystery, and Composer micAmic’s soundtrack sets a lovely haunting tone to the investigation. From Stone chasing a suspect to languishing in nostalgic memories, the soundtrack perfectly conveys the mood of each scene, ebbing and flowing as needed.
Since Rainswept features such an emotional story, the lack of facial features is an unusual design choice. At key plot moments, detailed eyes are added in, but the rest of the face remains distractingly blank. A complete style change in these moments with fully drawn characters, rather than adding realistic eyes to the minimalist design, might have been more effective.
Rainswept‘s large amount of dialogue is presented on black rectangles, with different colours representing each character’s voice. This design choice works well for most part, but Detective Stone’s red-on-black text can be difficult to read on occasion and could present problems for players with colour blindness. The script in general is well written, but, at times basic punctuation is missing, particularly in the opening scenes. Dialogue has appeared in other games without full stops for a sense of immediacy, but if this is a stylistic choice, it needs to be done consistently.
At the time of review, a few technical issues were encountered. A plot-important character could not be interacted with, making progression impossible. In another instance, loading up the game disabled mouse controls, leaving Detective Stone trapped in his hotel room. Thankfully, once informed, the developer was able to patch these issues swiftly and no progress was lost. Nonetheless, further testing before the review stage to catch these errors would have been appreciated.
Rainswept is more of an interactive story than an adventure game, but the story it tells is emotional and compelling. Those who enjoy a good narrative and can forgive some clunkiness will find a thoughtful tale that lingers on the mind long after the credits have rolled.
Reviewed on PC.