Review: Tears in Rain

As part of my participation in Game Chef I am to review four games submitted by other contestants.

One of these is Tears in Rain by Alex Mayo, a game of past regrets and mistakes.

In this game you play a man slowly dying in his sleep, enveloped in the freezing cold of a damaged cryosleep pod, onboard a spaceship that can explode any minute now. Or maybe it will just drift in space for eternity, the steel coffin for your dead body. Before that happens, though, you dream your last dreams… What a powerful and intriguing idea!

The structure of the game is clear and simple, making for a fast, kaleidoscope-like experience, with the “apparitions” (ghosts from the protagonist’s past) coming in and out of view in a flurry of confusion and regret.

Using candles to mark the hero’s distance from oblivion, coupled with what seem to be brief moments of clarity and connection to reality only deepen the morbid and timeless feel of this game.

However, there are a few things in the rules that, I believe, could be improved. For instance, the text says the player “opposite” the protagonist plays the apparition – but with an odd number of players (set at 3), which one is opposite? Would have been easier to just say “the player on the left” in this case. Also, the game uses beads in a bowl to measure progress and I can easily imagine the game grinding to a halt as the players count the beads to figure out if it’s time to blow out a candle or not.

I would love to see this game expanded! Alex divided keywords in the game into categories named alpha through delta, mirroring the names of the different wave patterns in the human brain. This differentiation does not seem to have any effect in-game – and it would be awesome if it did, if the game mirrored the anatomy of a dream… Though that could well add unneeded complexity and, as stated above, I appreciate the simplicity and lightness of this design a lot.

I plan to try this game out at an upcoming convention – I am pretty sure it will freak the players out (myself included).

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