Standalone WiiWare Review: Rainbow Islands: Towering Adventure!

I never really intended to write any negative reviews on this site. Mainly it’s because of the old adage: if you have nothing nice to say don’t say anything at all (besides, no publicity for a game can be worse than bad publicity). I’ve also been fortunate enough not to buy a game for the Wii that I’ve disliked enough to give a negative review to. I also know people tend to read reviews to find out whether or not a game is worth their time and in the import scene they’re not always easy to come by, so I feel obligated to share my views even if they’re not very positive, so here goes…

If you’re as old as I am you would have been going to arcades when Rainbow Islands first appeared more than 20 years ago and you may have seen it. I didn’t, either because arcades were starting to become less common or the ones I frequented just didn’t have as much turn over as they used to. This game was subtitled “The Story of Bubble Bobble 2” (not to be confused with Bubble Symphony, which was titled Bubble Bobble 2 outside of Japan), though the gameplay is quite different from Bubble Bobble.

Firstly the protagonists, Bub and Bob, have been transformed from cute little dinosaurs back into cute little boys; secondly instead of platforming on a single screen they move vertically up through multiple screens in a Super Mario World-style multi-level environment subdivided into stages that end with a boss battle. Enemies are dispatched by casting rainbows over them and jumping on the rainbows to make them fall; this also kills all enemies below them (even if a bit off-screen) and also picks up powerups and bonus items. The rainbows are also used as bridges between gaps and to continue upward progress. The worlds have different themes: Insect Island, Toy Island, Monster Island (no, not the one from Godzilla), etc.

The gameplay mechanics worked well and it was fun to play. I never made it past the third world boss, but still enjoyed having a go now and then on the arcade-perfect Playstation port that came on the Bubble Bobble Collection disc.

Rainbow Islands: Towering Adventure! is sort of a remake of the Rainbow Islands arcade game, but the problem is that the things that made the original game fun have been all but removed. The graphical tarting up is not a big deal: the characters are less cutesy and have a 3D rendered look and the backgrounds are much more detailed. The game certainly looks good, but play it and you’ll quickly realise something is wrong.

Firstly the rainbows don’t collapse when you jump on them; only when you jump up underneath them, which is a bit more difficult to pull off. Secondly there are no worlds and no stages. Instead you have levels which are 1000m each. You go up and up and up and then a boss comes up from below which is basically some machine climbing the tower you’re on, you drop rainbows on them until they are dead (if they don’t kill you first, which they probably will since they keep coming up and firing various attacks as they do), get a few power-ups and continue without more than 2 or 3 seconds pause before you’re doing it all over again.

As if this wasn’t bad enough you have no lives; instead there’s a timer that starts out with 300 seconds and counts down constantly; you also lose 30 seconds off the clock every time you touch an enemy. Along with the power-ups which speed up your rainbow-casting ability and how far they reach, you also get gems when you dispatch enemies. In the original game they were large gems and if you got all seven you got a 1up; since we don’t have lives anymore you just keep your power-up levels when you hit an enemy instead of losing a level. In addition you can earn smaller gems which put time back on your clock — mostly in 1 and 5 second increments — but the fact is that you’ll be lucky to have 60 seconds on the timer by the time you reach the boss.

Finally, if you do beat the boss you’ll find no stage end that resets the timer; instead you get a bunch of time gems and power-ups in place of the point-laden food items of the original and the game just keeps going! The time gems disappear pretty quickly, so you just grab what you can to top-up your clock and continue on your way with no breather and not much feeling of accomplishment. Even the enemies look the same from level to level. The enemies on the first two are a combination of different enemies from the first three worlds of the original game: caterpillars, bees and spiders from Insect Island coexist with tanks and bombers from Toy Island and bats from Monster Island. I suppose if I continued with it they might change (I’ve seen screenshots of Level 7 with Space Invaders in them), but the fact is that without variety in the boss battles or changes between levels other than the scenery — and most of all the constant countdown of doom — I didn’t really feel like playing any more.

If Taito had done the same as Bubble Bobble Wii (tarting-up the graphics and adding a bunch of new levels), I probably would have enjoyed it a lot more. If the time penalties for hitting enemies hadn’t been so punishing and it had a smaller block size (295 — why?) I could have tolerated it, but as it stands the game is functional but lacks enough appeal to keep my interest. If it was in an arcade I’d probably drop a few coins into it, but I cannot recommend anyone spend 800 points and 15% of their Wii storage on this: you’re really better off waiting for the excellent PC Engine port of the arcade game to show up on the Virtual Console instead.