We first announced last month that Ayo: A Rain Tale was being released on mobile. Now, we’ve looked at the game more closely.
As we shared earlier, in the game, you play as the character Ayo. The story is set in sub-Saharan Africa and focuses on Ayo collecting water for her family.
The game brings to focus the plight of millions of families across the world who don’t have access to clean and safe water. Not to mention, the responsibility many young girls and women in helping collecting water for their families.
Now that I’ve played the game, I can very plainly say now that it fits into the platformer genre. The primary controls are via a virtual directional stick located on the left and a jump button on the right.
More on that left direction control – it’s awesome
Either I haven’t played very many games or this is new to me but the left direction control actually moves wherever your finger is. In other words, there is no dedicated area on the phone (other than the left-hand side) for directions. This is great because some people may have different grip positions on their phone while playing in landscape mode. Personally, it was interesting to see how much my left thumb deviated from place to place based on the UI control overlay.
I don’t know if I was just really derpy. I found that despite thinking that I was using the controls precisely, I was not moving Ayo precisely. It almost feels like there’s a bit of lag between input and the character movement, albeit, minor lag. Regardless, it wasn’t that hard to get into ‘the groove’ of how the movement mechanics work.
Also, it seems in the game that the dimensions of certain climbable objects aren’t what they seem. This is a minor complaint as well. You’ll see towards the end of this video my tedious climb up to an empty platform (starts at 4:00):
I quite enjoy the mixed 2D-3D graphics. There’s a depth to the visuals that you wouldn’t normally get in a flat 2D side-scroller. The 2D overlays of plants and other environmental features also help with this visual depth.
The various short cutscenes in between levels are also beautiful. The cartoon style is simple but very colourful. The cutscenes are also partially animated but still sit in that minimalist camp.
While you get music on the main menu, it isn’t a feature as such during the rest of the gameplay. I don’t see this as a bad thing because the rest of the game makes up for it with the sound design.
As you’ll find from my previous reviews, I have a soft spot for good sound design. Whether it’s the sound effects or how the sound depicts the environment, I think Ayo does a good job in this department. The sound together with the visuals helps create a 3D-feeling space.
I usually put this story section earlier but I want to tie it in with the previous sections since they all play a big role in how the story is told.
Firstly, while I initially called this game a platformer, it’s definitely more of an audiovisual representation of a real-world problem. I’ve never had a moment in my life where I’ve struggled to find or even get water. This game, as an experience, clearly highlights how difficult it really can be for people in real life. People will walk and do walk great lengths for a resource that I can say I easily take for granted.
Secondly, I can’t say how much the visuals, the music and the sound really build the environment you play in. It’s not often that you feel transported to a different place — and this is even harder to say when you’re playing a side-scrolling game. In particular, the soundscape of the first underground level really builds the setting for you.
Thirdly, I think the game really brought home its main message: young girls and women out in the world collecting water for their families are Ayo. If you didn’t think about the value of water before this game, then you definitely will after. There’s plenty of ‘space’ in the game to contemplate this reality.
Ayo isn’t a game I would normally download and play and I can see myself finishing it because I’m really invested in Ayo’s personal story. I want to see her succeed and I want to see her make it past all of the stupid obstacles that life puts in her way. But, most importantly, I want to see her triumph. And that, I think, is where you’ll find you connect with the story because you’re there with her every step of her journey.