Let’s Go Capture Some Negative Emotions!
HIGH Fantastic cartoon visuals coupled with varied gameplay.
LOW Some battles get repetitive.
WTF Have a garbage day!
There’s something magical about games that let players restore the world through their actions, be that cleaning dirty walls, sucking up muck or recycling trash — it’s a flavor of gameplay that I become quickly addicted to. Rainbow Billy also grabbed me by offering similar a similar ‘make things better’ premise, but this time the objective is to return color to a black-and-white world.
Our hero Billy travels by boat between islands that have been drained of their hue. He must not only revitalize them, but also save them from the menace of the Leviathan — a huge dragon that was disturbed by fireworks launched by Billy himself.
The aesthetic style of the graphics is just lovely — while the developers call it “modern cartoon,” I’d say it’s clearly inspired by classic ‘toons from the ’30s or ’40s, with a bit of a contemporary anime vibe. Think of it like a simplified, less over-the-top Cuphead vibe.
Gameplay touches on several genres to deliver a unique and interesting mixture. At its core, Rainbow Billy feels like a 2.5D platformer, where the player will operate levers and jump around to find items, open doors and use elevators. When combat occurs, things shift gears into turn-based battles.
Combat is more complex than I’m going to get into here, but basically the player has to use the right combination of allies, dialogue choices and attacks to win. In fact, I used the word “combat,” but each encounter is more about listening patiently and making good conversation with the foe. The player must talk to enemies first, learn their fears and anxieties, and make them lower their guard. After a win, these ‘future friends’ can be recruited to the party.
Once a new ally has joined, the work is far from over, though — nurturing the relationship is also important. Players have to give partners small items and gummi fishes (found in the world) to make them level up and get new powers to be used during “battles” that strengthen the party, like restoring Billy’s health or gaining more powerful attacks.
Each island in the campaign has a decent mix of combat and platforming, along with some minigames thrown in for variety. One such minigame is fishing, which might sound totally run-of-the-mill, but here is designed as a puzzle that can be quite engaging. There are also “negative thoughts” around the islands to be collected. These give standard upgrades to our character or ship, along with offering little nuggets of “shower thought”-style humour.
Billy isn’t the talkative type. While not entirely mute, he tends to let the other characters speak for him. There’s quite a lot of dialogue and backstory to be discovered, much of which walks a thin line between subtle adult humor and good advice for young kids on how to be respectful towards others. I dread using the word “wholesome,” but if I was hard-pressed, this would definitely be a perfect case.
Rainbow Billy and The Curse of the Leviathan was a great surprise. It’s an experience that refreshes the soul and left me feeling uplifted through an entertaining mix of genres, fantastic graphics and an addictive premise. They don’t make them like they used to, but Rainbow Billy sure does feel like the good old days.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Mana Void Entertainment and published by Skybound Games. It is currently available on PS, XB, PC and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on Switch. Approximately 5 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: The game is rated E by the ESRB. There’s not really much of anything that needs a content warning so it can be recommended to everyone, especially young players for its non-violent message.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game has no spoken dialogue. Conversation is conveyed through text, which can be modified through a “dyslexia friendly” mode. The speed of text scrolling can be also modified. No audio cues are needed for gameplay. In my view, the game is fully accessible.
Remappable controls: The game has no remappable controls, but directions are always onscreen indicating what button to press. In general, the left stick moves and the face buttons are used for actions/confirm/cancel. (See example below.)
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