I had already heard of Ayo: A Rain Tale before its PR sent out the obligatory press release. Playing as a sub-Saharan girl on a quest to find drinkable water sounded like a refreshing idea, no pun intended! As soon as the message came in, I claimed the key and added the game to our weekly schedule.
For this one, though, I wanted to do something a bit different. I invited Elisa over and made her a deal that she couldn’t refuse: food in exchange for collaboration. One of us would play the game; the other would take notes and utter remarks. We also decided to swap at regular intervals. Consider this review the result of teamwork.
A Short-Lived Legend
From the very first moments, Ayo: A Rain Tale looked as if it had everything it needed to be a success. Right in front of our eyes cute graphics, innovative approaches, and somewhat of a noble cause merged into a seemingly powerful product. We actually both itched to give this platformer a chance. Perhaps, what we hoped for was an intricate experience that’d be able to both entertain and raise awareness.
Unfortunately, the title’s legend would be rather short-lived. Almost immediately, frustration replaced amusement. Throughout our session, we battled choppy animations, unresponsive controls, and lack of originality. Soon, we were left wondering why anyone would bother following the plot. The protagonist’s spiritual journey through African culture and folklore might have been interesting, but there’s really no reason for the average player to keep up with it.
Ayo: A Rain Tale is indubitably plagued by questionable design choices and poor variety. The first few stages, for instance, are nothing but a barren and rather linear speck of desert. Even obstacles and opponents failed to woo us. As a rule of thumb, bushes whose damage changes according to their color won’t make for intriguing enemies.
The way some of the levels were designed also puzzled us. More often than not, the edges of our screen prevented us from seeing what we were running into. Our character would approach a ledge only to discover that we couldn’t know what lied below it. Progression boiled down to blind leaps and crossed fingers. Luckily, someone thought of adding a checkpoint system.
Bone-rattling Silence Around Us
Personally, though, what disturbed me the most wasn’t how Ayo: A Rain Tale played; it was how it sounded. When we first booted the game up, we were greeted by hearty chatter and music. The main menu also features a rather compelling soundtrack. Start a new game and all of that magically comes to an end!
From the moment you move your first step, the world around you falls into a bone-rattling silence. There’s no music, dialogues won’t be read out loud, and sound effects are reduced to a minimum. Considering that the entire story takes place in the desert, I can kind of see why the development team decided to go with it.
Still, Ayo: A Rain Tale isn’t a virtual tour of the Sahara. Its objective shouldn’t be to show you how walking through the sand sounds like but rather to tell a story. As we already said multiple times, a solid soundtrack plays a vital role in keeping the player hooked. If I were to be completely sincere, I’d say I was thoroughly disappointed. Listening to the same set of pre-recorded steps, grunts, and background noises for over 7 hours definitely didn’t put a smile on my face.
No Dice With This Particular Fräulein?
As interesting as Ayo’s story might be, we didn’t feel encouraged to discover more of it enough. For a game whose final objective is to sensitize the crowd to an issue, its shortcomings simply felt too heavy to bear. By the time our food was at the door, we had already decided to focus on something else.
I eventually picked it back up by myself later, only to cycle through the same four screens for a while before I gave up. If the game had something unique to offer, I guess it didn’t manage to get me there. With such a large number of indie titles seeing the light of day every month, most developers only get one chance to leave a good impression!
Nevertheless, not everything is lost. Elisa sees Ayo: A Rain Tale as a good launchpad for future projects and I struggle to find a reason not to agree with her. Albeit underdeveloped, most of the ingredients for a great game are already there. With just a bit more stirring and a touch more time in the oven, we’re sure this could turn into an instant classic! Don’t give up now, people at Inkline!