Ayo: A Rain Tale is a game I really, REALLY want to be able to recommend. It’s a game drenched in African culture – even deriving it’s name from a West African board game. Folklore is conveyed to the player in moments that verge on capturing the appeal of classic edutainment titles. And then the game tries to be a fully realized platformer and everything falls flat.
To say I’m conflicted is an understatement. By all accounts, the passion put into this game is praiseworthy. We’ve not seen a game with this much love for a culture since Never Alone. Aesthetically, despite some rough animations, the visual design of Ayo is equally splendid with some great 2.5D visuals elegantly blending hand painted art with 3D models. Even the user interface has this tactile, brushstroke design that clicks with the rest of the experience.
The gameplay is neither forgiving enough to account for emulating a full control scheme on a touchscreen, nor does it warrant such inexplicably frustrating moments. While there’s no life system, and the game contains no monetization to speak of, it’s more brutal to the player than some harsher free to play games. You will face moments where you have to time around lava vents or collapsing platforms without any chance to properly gauge them. In one case, it literally occurs below your field of view until you reach a point of no return and have to pray you’re lucky enough to survive.
But then the Ayo gives you another tidbit of story, or offers you a new ability, and you start to feel like maybe it’s all worth it – until you faceplant into the latest obstacle. This masochistic balancing benefits no one, and feels completely at odds with the rest of what Ayo is trying to convey. There are even elements from games like Outland, demonstrating the developers’ ambitions, but they just don’t come together half as well as they should.
Even some basic polish issues are present, further detracting from an interesting core. The pause menu and collectible counter both were halfway off the screen on my tablet, and as I said, there are some clearly rough animations, but paradoxically, these aren’t issues with secondary characters or special abilities. Your basic run, jump, turn, and walk animations are the stiffest, with very little in the way responsiveness to the situation. Your walk rate seems genuinely slower than the pace of Ayo’s gait, and it leaves you feeling like you’re sliding on butter.
There's a good game buried here, but players shouldn't have to excavate to find a great time.
Worst of all, grabbing hold of critical ledges, requires pointing upward with the movement stick. This can be less than intuitive during tight jumps – of which, there are SEVERAL – and lead to falling to your death. You can imagine how frustrating this gets.
This isn’t a review I write with glee. I’d hoped Ayo: A Rain Tale would be a great title worth recommending, but instead, I struggle to justify suffering through such a mediocre platformer. If the gameplay were half as good as the setting and secondary elements, then Ayo would be a top-tier title. Instead, it suffers from a clear lack of focus where it needed far more attention.
One can only hope that patches will improve Ayo’s design. There’s a good game buried here, but players shouldn’t have to excavate to find a great time.
|A splendid game in the mold of Never Alone.||Lackluster controls, uneven polish, and frustrating platforming leads to serious, unnecessary headache.|