Ah, another peaceful day in the city. But what’s that? A giant flying saucer hellbent on destroying every trace of humanity in sight? Good thing there’s a superhero swooping in to exact justice upon our faceless invaders, and that hero is you. Yes, with Megaton Rainfall, Pentadimensional Games has produced a VR-friendly title that puts you in the role of an invincible superhuman. And like the altitudes you can fly at, the fun is full of peaks and valleys.
Megaton Rainfall takes place on a procedurally generated version of Earth. While the game never outright says so, you are basically the son of God. Your task is to protect civilization from an onslaught of retro-style alien spacecraft piloted by the “Intruders.” The plot is narrow in scope, mostly elevated by the grand presentation of being able to fly anywhere around the world. It’s truly unlike anything I’ve ever played, but before I gush about that aspect, let’s trudge through the less-than-spectacular stuff.
As one might expect with this sort of game, the meat of the challenge is combat. A marker will denote a location for you to fly towards, and once there you’ll be greeted by the silver flying weapons of the Intruders. They don’t want anything to do with you, though. Instead, they spend their time zapping, crushing, and bombing the skyscrapers below, racking up human casualties. Too many deaths and you’ll have to restart the encounter. You fight these aliens primarily with a blue fireball that creeps across the sky far too slowly. The Intruders dodge these easily, and many of your shots will miss and cause devastation to the humans. Instead of hovering above the Intruders and shooting them, you have to fly up right next to them in the brief moments they hold still, and try to get some shots in. It’s amazingly counterintuitive to everything this game should be about, making you feel handicapped instead of empowered. Your more effective powers, including a heat ray, have a mercilessly sluggish cooldown, making them unreliable from a strategy standpoint.
Flying so close to enemies that they fill your screen isn’t hard per se; it’s tedious and visually unpleasant. Even when you couldn’t be any closer to an Intruder’s red weak spot, they’ll often zip away in an instant. It also exposes the (understandable) weaknesses in the game’s visuals, laying bare sloppy textures and crude object geometry. It’s such a shame that the combat is so repetitive and frustrating, because you can tell that Pentadimensional Games showed a mindfulness for variety by introducing several different Intruder types that attack the city in their own unique ways. One type drops bombs that you need to pick up and throw. You need to pick up the larger red bombs and throw them to the sky so they don’t nuke the whole city. But they look too similar to the green ones, they get caught on buildings, and they sometimes come out at an unfair rate. Problems like these abound in Megaton Rainfall’s skirmishes, leading to a core experience that just isn’t much fun.
Rainfall has a saving grace, though, and it’s an enormous one. Simply put, flying around the world is just awesome. The higher you go in the atmosphere, the faster you travel, allowing you to break the stratosphere and explore the massive Earth as much as you want. But that’s not all. Incredibly, the entire solar system is replicated here, with a seemingly accurate distance between planets. Just the novelty of floating among Saturn’s rings is more memorable than any alien fight could hope to be, because you actually shot yourself across the void of space and made it there. Words can’t describe how liberating it is to be able to literally go anywhere. Yes, there is procedural generation going on with the landscapes, and yes, there are graphical glitches from time to time, but when you’re flying through the sky, it feels like the real deal. Space is gorgeous, by the way. I’ve spent quite a while flying aimlessly around this massive open world and just messing around because I can. Having no goals among the cosmos does start to creep up on you, but I've never gotten tired of revisiting it. The surprisingly understated soundtrack accompanies these journeys perfectly, really emphasizing their emotional impact. This works where No Man’s Sky didn’t, in part because the planets you visit are actually out there in real life. You’re placed in a version of our own world and allowed to roam to places you never actually will. There are procedurally generated planets, stars, and solar systems as well, which you'll shoot past meteors and nebulae on your way towards. It’s humbling, to say the least.
Towards the end of the game, the mechanics finally start playing with its stratospheric scale. It’s here that Megaton Rainfall’s potential becomes more apparent. The scored aspects are largely botched by dull and awkward mechanics, but the sandbox portion is incredible. If you just do what this god tells you, you’re in for a mediocre experience. But when you learn where the real fun is, it becomes something more. Hopefully, we’ll one day see a game like this that uses its scale as part of the scored challenge. Until then, pick this up when you see it on sale. The feeling it gives you is just too special to miss.