As we move into the greyness of autumn and ready ourselves for a long hard winter what could be better than a family friendly adventure about bringing colour back into people’s lives? There has been something of a welcome trend recently towards a genre of non-violent chilled experiences for players of all ages, so let’s see how this one has turned out in the XboxEra review of Rainbow Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan.
The game begins with gender neutral character Billy talking to their friends whilst exploring the ‘World of Imagination’ to find positive thoughts and colourful Sparklers for the evenings ‘Festival of Colour’. After some basic platforming and a few mini games, the fireworks begin to everyone’s delight, everyone except one that is – it wakes the miserable Leviathan from his slumber beneath the ocean. In an act of revenge, he drains all colour from the world and Billy is forced to escape on the ‘Friend Ship’ (a boat based on a rubber duck) to a nearby island.
Shall we take a trip?
Billy must then travel from island to island (I believe there are eighty-five in total for you completionists out there) platforming, gathering coins, solving environmental colour based puzzles and making allies via a novel take on turn-based combat. Eventually, if you collect three different colour orbs by successfully working three end of level bosses through their issues you are able to confront the leviathan himself and attempt to bring colour back into Billy’s world.
Presented in a bright 2.5D visual style the game is a delight to look at. Billy can run and jump as standard but is also able to spin and roll in order to traverse the world slightly faster. Early in the game Billy collects a fishing rod or ‘Punching Rod’ called Rodrigo. As the game progresses Rodrigo is able to carry out more and more tasks to help you on your way. Starting with the ability to punch barrels and uncover coins he picks up new skills and is soon able to be used as a grappling hook to swing between balloons suspended in the air and eventually can act as the ‘Billy Copter’ whereupon double jump causes a transformation into a propeller and allows Billy to fly down to lower locations or ride air currents to get to higher platforms.
After landing at each island, players are required to scavenge for coins or useful objects, solve puzzles to allow further access and battle any monochrome animals that impede your progress. There are sixty of these creatures located throughout the game and successful non-violent turn-based combat allows billy to befriend them and add them to their cause.
The battles or ‘Confrontations’ take place within what looks like a pizza box and start simply and become more complex as the game continues. The object of the combat is to talk your opponent through whatever issue is bothering them. These are different for every creature you find whether it is suffering from shyness, being bullied, being a practical joker to get attention or one of many mental health issues.
Selecting the right statement encourages your opponent and displays some of their hidden shapes and colours, this then enables your animal friends to recover these colours via the successful completion of very short mini games. Once you have recovered all of an enemies hidden shapes and colours you restore colour to the individual and they become a friend. Returning colour to all of the creatures on an island returns colour to the island itself. However, if your Morale meter hits zero during combat, due to selecting incorrect words of comfort or failing mini games you will be thrown out of the fight and have to start again from the beginning.
‘Positive Thoughts’ hidden within the environment were turned negative when the colour was drained from the world so these can be collected and fed into a machine known as the ‘Think Tank’. This will reward you with filters for a polaroid setting that allows you to take pictures in game, more required items or upgrades for the ship.
As the friendship group got bigger, you are able to use them to draw upon a larger selection of colours or choose abilities such as a recovering morale when selected at the start of a turn. During confrontations friends can be shuffled at the cost of a turn to get the colours required to beat the current enemy.
Nothing is as simple as it seems
Interestingly, the rules of these confrontations regularly change to keep players on their toes, forcing players to pay close attention to the conversation taking place in order to discover how to complete each instance of combat. It is also worth mentioning that although you have made friends with animals, new enemies (especially end of level bosses) can still manipulate their feelings and use them against you in battle.
Boss battles became more challenging as you work your way through the sections with a typical three course structure being used, but the confrontation with the leviathan did not stick to the usual tropes of the genre and the final section in particular was really refreshing in its execution.
As the end titles are displayed the back story of Billy and the Leviathan is told in the style of polaroid pictures and gave me a far deeper understanding regarding what the story was trying to convey than the game had suggested at face value. Being a game for all age groups this makes sense and in effect can cause the story to mean different things to people of different ages whilst still conveying messages about kindness, individuality, empathy, compassion, self-identity and inclusion to everyone.
You can pet the dog!
Nice touches for younger players are the cute little dog with wheels who you are able to pet, the cool animated cut scenes and the ‘friend ship’ which runs on rainbow fuel and limits how far you can sail between islands before obtaining upgrades to your fuel tank. As your fuel starts to get low the leviathans arms rise from the deep and hover over the ship waiting to submerge it if the fuel runs out. Although this is in the style of a cartoon it is strangely menacing and had the ability to send a shiver down my spine, but in a good way.
In terms of accessibility this title delivers far more than most indie games with a dyslexia-friendly font, single joystick controls and colour blindness support being available in the settings menu.
If you are interested in platforming, exploration, colour based puzzles, turn-based combat and mini games, Rainbow Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan has everything that you could want for a leisurely ten to twelve hour play through. This is a story about communication, listening to others and being empathetic to their point of view. During these divided times this is a great message to be putting out into the world so I applaud Manavoid Entertainment and Skybound Games for what they have created here.
|Reviewed on||Xbox Series X|
|Available on||Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Windows PC, PS4|PS5, Nintendo Switch|
|Release Date||05th October, 2021|