You pull up to a modest house on a wet, dreary day. A small crowd gathers as word spreads across the town with news about what happened – or at least what they think happened.
Getting out of your vehicle, you pull out a cigarette and light it up, taking in a few puffs before walking over to the local on-duty beat cop. You tell the beat cop to push the crowd back and secure the perimeter so as to preserve any possible evidence of the crime. Stepping over the tape that is sealing off the grisly crime scene, you walk into the house where two corpses lie on the floor.
Your character, Michael Stone, is a veteran detective sent to Pineview to aid the small-town cops with an investigation that they are not equipped to deal with on their own. It’s a suspected murder-suicide, although the local cops seem to think it’s an open-and-shut case. The sheriff, who you encounter at the crime scene, insists that the facts are as plain as day and wants the case wrapped up quickly, before a popular local festival kicks off.
Something does not add up, though. The victims, a married couple named Chris and Diane, recently moved to Pineview from a larger nearby city, settling down in the small town to start a new life. As you soon find out, they never really fit in with the locals. The more details that Detective Stone learns, the more he begins to suspect foul play.
Most of your time playing Rainswept is spent wandering around the town of Pineview, which looks like a generic small town in the Pacific Northwest. The gameplay mostly consists of interviewing townsfolk, asking a series of questions, and reading dialogue. The majority of people who you interview describe a rocky marriage. Ultimately, your job is to sift through rumors and hearsay to uncover what actually happened.
The detectives are also central characters. Detective Stone frequently blacks out and is haunted by nightmares of his dead wife. It’s clear early on that he suffers from undiagnosed mental illness and unresolved traumatic experiences that only worsen as he attempts to bury them.
Stone’s partner on the case, Officer Blunt, is a young female fresh out of the academy wise beyond her years. While you would think that the roles would be reversed, Stone is at times quick to draw conclusions and lose his temper. Blunt, the junior officer in the duo, keeps calm and weighs the evidence without jumping to conclusions. It’s a bit of a weird dynamic.
The characters are fairly well developed and charismatic in their own way. Aside from the officers and the townsfolk, you start to get to know Chris and Diane – both as individuals and as a couple – through a series of interactive flashbacks. You learn how they first met at a New Year’s Eve party, only to ditch the party for a fireworks display. You see how cold Diane can be (as you learn later, for good reason). And you witness Chris’ spontaneity and unpredictable nature.
As you can probably gather, Rainswept is a decidedly story-driven and text-heavy game. No words are ever spoken. The dialogue and music are used to convey the mood. Combined with what looks like a hand drawn art style, Rainswept feels very much like an indie title – in a good way.
This is not to suggest that Rainswept is flawlessly executed. In terms of actual gameplay, there isn’t much to speak of outside of wandering around town and speaking to people. The puzzles, to the extent that you can even call them that, are basically an afterthought. If anything, they should have just left them out entirely as they only serve to hinder progression of an already slow-moving plot.
The game’s controls are another point of contention. The developers would have been smart to enable point-and-click character movement as an option rather than solely relying on WASD keyboard strokes. Combined with the need to get close to objects and hover over them with your mouse, the controls end up just feeling clunky. It also would have been nice to be able to play with an Xbox controller so that I could enjoy the experience in my living room rather than at my desk saddled to a mouse and keyboard.
The issues do not end there. The questions that you are presented with as options during interviews and interrogations do not change when you learn new information, and your choices do not seem to make much of a difference in the overall arc of the story. It feels like a predestined journey rather than an adventure that you are influencing. Rainswept is basically a one-and-done adventure. There’s no real point to coming back for a second playthrough. For such a story-heavy game, this is a letdown.
Flaws aside, I nonetheless appreciate the writing (even though they need to hire a decent proofreader) and the character development. At roughly four to five hours long, it’s a short game without much filler – a good thing, in my book. It will not shoot to the top of your list of must-play games, but you should give Rainswept serious consideration during a Steam sale if you enjoy text-driven murder mysteries.