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Review #288

Rainbow Islands: Towering Adventure
Publisher: Square-Enix
Developer: Taito
Genre: Platformer
Release Date: 06/15/2009

Okay, I’m a well known fan of Bubble Bobble and Puzzle Bobble AKA Bust-A-Move. Last year’s Bubble Bobble: Double Shot won our Puzzle Game of the Year award and the original is on the favourites list of nearly everyone on staff. In fact, when we used to do multi person awards, Bubble Bobble Old & New had the highest average score out of any game ever.

However, the Rainbow Island series has never gotten as much love - neither from my staff nor gamers in general. It’s kind of the dark sheep of the Taito family, but not deservedly so. People just like Bub and Bob as weird dinosaurs, not nerdy kids.

Now here we are with a new Rainbow Islands game for the Wiiware. It’s only eight dollars and Square-Enix was kind enough to provide me with a review copy code, so I decided to give the game a whirl. I’ve always loathed platformers, but I’ve never minded the Rainbow Island series save for the horrible DS version made by the same people that did the equally awful Bubble Bobble Revolutions. Thankfully those dark days are long past. Now let’s see if Towering Adventure is worth your eight dollars.

Let’s Review

1. Story/Modes

If you’re new to the Bub and Bob games, the Rainbow Island titles take place AFTER the Bubble Bobble games. You can tell this because they now look human. Bubby and Bobby (Why were they given the extended lamer names) learn that there’s a magical tower. At the top is a comet (and someone named Holly. Ho ho ho. Get it?) that will grant them a wish if they can make it to the top. Bub and Bob talk about the weirdness of magic when a mad scientist named Dr. Crescent comes up out of nowhere and says how there is now such thing as magic so he’s going to use his giant machines of doom to prove it. Now Bub and Bob have to climb up the tower as quickly as they can so they aren’t destroyed by the machines. Think of it as a sci-fi Ice Climbers. The story is a bit pants and you don’t get much of it, but at least there’s an explanation to this Technicolor surreal little title.

There are three modes, but you’ll have a very hard time telling them apart as it’s the same exact game with the same exact seven levels, aside from one tiny difference in each one. Story Mode is just completing the game in a row with checkpoints and bosses to either kill or run from every 1000 meters. Challenge Mode is the same thing, except there are no continues, story, or checkpoint. It’s just see how high you can get until you die. Timed Mode pits you against one of the seven levels in the game, and you just try to see how fast you can get up that section. There are no other differences between the three modes, and you’ll have a mix of disappointment and déjà vu once you realize this.

So there’s not a lot of story and you’re basically getting one mode three times. I was hoping for something as expansive as Bubble Bobble Plus, but alas, this is not the case. Instead, we’re here with the usual problem of Rainbow Islands falling short of its Bubble Bobble brethren. There’s just not enough substance here and you’ll quickly become bored with doing the same levels over and over again.

Story/Modes Rating: 3/10

2. Graphics

Okay, I have to say this and it’s pretty blunt: this is the ugliest Rainbow Islands game I’ve ever seen. I mean, I have to say the original Arcade graphics were better than this Wii variant. It’s also nowhere as good as my Sega Saturn version, but then, that’s pretty much the best RI has ever been across the board. Bubby and Bobby are easily the worst character designs I’ve seen in this generation of gaming. I mean, wow. Look at them in Challenge Mode where you see them face on instead of from a profile. I am dead serious when I say these are the worst character models I’ve seen in years.

Your enemies are pretty dull as well, at least in the first few stages. The designs are dull and generic without any real detail. However, once you get to the last two or three levels, expect crossover city. I was happy to see a few classic Taito characters show up, even if the Space Invaders crew never seems to give up.

The two things about the visuals I can say that I enjoyed were the colours and the background designs. Everything is bright and colourful and I absolutely loved the rainbows, especially when you get enough power-ups to chain several in a row. Backgrounds tended to be quite nice too, however it’s hard to pay attention to them due to the precise nature of the jumping aspects of this game. As well, the higher you climb in the tower, the better things tend to look. It’s as if Taito was saving the best visuals (such as they are) as a reward for those that can jump, jump, jump.

I really wish this game would have been as visually appealing as a Bubble Bobble title, but alas, a large part of the problem are generic enemies, the poor redesign of Bub and Bob and just an overall lack of detail. What’s here is colourful and passable, but not much more than that.

Graphics Rating: 5/10

3. Sound

Like most Taito games, there’s not a lot of variety in terms of music, but the music is luckily as catchy as it is repetitive. Due to the sheer amount of times you hear the music in the game, expect it to either get on your nerves , or stick in your head for sometime after playing. Again, it’s not like the timeless Bubble Bobble theme, but at least this is one category where Towering Adventure can hold it’s own.

There is no voice acting, although the game does do the strange warbling noises we used to hear (or still do in the cases of things like Animal Crossing) in games of yore. It’s surprisingly fitting here, even if it’s not very impressive.

There aren’t a lot of sound effects to Towering Adventure either. You have the noise when you make rainbows, when you jump, when you collide with a monster or when you collect power-ups. Much like the score, there’ s just not enough style or substance here to make RI:TA stand out here.

Sound Rating: 5.5/10

4. Control and Gameplay

As mentioned earlier, this Rainbow Islands is basically Rainbow Islands but with smaller platformers and harder jumps to make. Each level of the game is 1,000 meters and there are seven levels for you to climb through. At the 800 meter mark of each level, you’ll have to do battle with a boss, which you can either kill or run from. Either works, but remember that doing one or the other might affect your ending. It’s just jumping upwards onto ever shrinking ledges until you reach a checkpoint, beat the game, or the time runs out.

You have the usual Rainbow Island moves, but if you’re new to the franchise, I’ll give you a quick explanation. Your main weapon is your ability to shoot rainbows. You can use these to kill enemies or as platforms to help you jump higher or onto the next level of platforms. You can also jump on top of or below a rainbow to break them as use them as weapons as well. This works best against bosses. You also have a new circular rainbow shield that supposedly works as a defensive move, but it’s generally better in theory than in practice. You also have a “rainbow jump,” but it really doesn’t work that well. You have to shake the wiimote to make it happen, but considering you’re holding the Wiimote like an NES controller, let’s just say there are some control detection issues here.

You’ll also be trying to collect all seven gems of the rainbow, which is MUCH easier than the original game. In the previous versions of Rainbow Islands, you could go through a whole game without getting all seven. Here, it’s not impossible to get all seven on a single level as they appear when you score a large enough chain attack (killing enough bad guys in a set time period). Killing enemies can also net you extra seconds on the timer, which is constantly ticking towards zero. When time runs out, you die. If you got far enough (1000m, 2000m, etc) you can continue at a checkpoint. Otherwise, it’s back to the beginning and slow opening story bit that you can’t skip. Every time you hit an enemy, it’s thirty seconds off the clock. Considering you only have four minutes at the start of the game, even two or three collisions are enough to kill your game.

I generally don’t like platformers because of the constant precision jumping required in them. One pixel off and you’re dead. While the insta-death isn’t a factor here, you do have to be a pretty solid jumping machine in order to progress through this game. Even then, you’re going to have three problems that may hamper even those gamers who excel at this genre. The first is button lag. There was noticeable lag between pressing the button and actual jumping. The bigger problem is that this was never consistent. I had full battery power in my Wiimote, but sometimes, Bubby just would wait a bit before actually responding to my jumps. Sometimes, he wouldn’t respond at all. That’s problem number two. In a game where you are racing against a very tight clock, having to press a button two or three times when you should only have to press it once equals a huge time sink. The third problem is the real stickler for me. When you miss a jump, and you will often, Bubby or Bobby don’t plummet to the next platform so you can try again. No, they glide veeeeeeeery sloooooowly to the next one. Again, remember this is a game where speed is off the essence so often you won’t make it to the top simply because of the time it takes for you to fall. I really can’t get behind this, and with a boss, this can be game over instantly as you fall into the boss with no way to get back up. Get ready to choose continue kids.

I can’t really say I was impressed with this platformer, especially after playing both Prinny: Can I Really Be The Hero and The Legendary Starfy. The controls just aren’t precise enough, which is a bit odd considering how precise the game WANTS you to be. Nothing ruins a game more than pressing the jump button, and the move happening later than you want it to, so you miss your jump and instead slowly plummet down a hundred meters or so, meaning your game is all but done.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 5.5/10

5. Replayability

Although there are three modes to RI:TA, they’re all basically the same. As well, because this version of the game has made it quite easy to collect all seven gems in the first playthrough, there’s not much to come back for after you beat the game. There is a two player mode, but this either greatly increases or decreases the difficulty of the game, depending on both player’s skill level. If one player is quite good at platformers while the other is not, this can be a very stressful experience indeed. It’s a great idea to include a two player mode here, I only wish it actually worked better than it did. A vertical scrolling platformer is generally the worst type of game to implement this form in.

Even if you’re a long time Taito fan like myself, it’s hard to justify the purchase of Towering Adventure, much less any repeat playthrough of it. At least two of the three modes involve beating a “high score” so to speak.

Replayability Rating: 4/10

6. Balance

Rainbow Islands is a game that progress steadily in difficulty. Unlike previous versions of this game, you don’t get a breather when you make it to a checkpoint akin to clearing a world. Nope. Instead, it’s nonstop jumping from the second the game starts until you die or beat the game. Those are your two options. This is very similar to both console and arcade games from the 80’s, so at least Rainbow Islands holds true to that. The game is never truly hard in terms of enemies or boss battles – it’s just the crazy jumping that gets faster and frantic as you reach each checkpoint.

I will say it’s much easier to run from bosses than fight them. This is because you have to keep climbing anyway as the boss destroys the lower levels of the tower. It’s also very hard to air beneath you, whereas the boss just instantly goes away when you reach the checkpoint..

Towering Adventure offers a nice degree of challenge, even if it’s mostly just memorizing what’s above you as you try to jump to exactly the right spot at exactly the right time. The game has all the pratfalls and positives of a classic platformer. Take that how you will.

Balance Rating: 7/10

7. Originality

Considering the entire game is just one giant rehash of both the originalRainbow Islands and Ice Climbers, you probably won’t be surprised that Towering Adventure is more than a bit lacking in the innovation department. It’s even worse when you factor in that the game various modes are really just the same exact levels but with a ever so slightly different goal. Oy.

It would have been nice to see as much attention to detail in Towering Adventure as we saw in Bubble Bobble Plus, but Rainbow Islands has always been the massively rehashed redheaded stepchild of Taito’s franchises. I think even Jungle Hunt has been treated better.

Originality Rating: 3/10

8. Addictiveness

I was really enjoying the game at first, and I had a hard time putting it down. Then I noticed all three modes are pretty much the same thing. That took a lot of wind out of my sails. Then I noticed I had to rapidly hit buttons to make the story bits of level one hurry up as there was no way to just jump past the intro. This was another disappointment that made me basically start on the second stage every time after that. It was just boring spending a minute or two each time just speeding up the text and story. Finally, I really had a hard time justifying to myself playing the other modes in the game due to them being exactly the same but with a new goal of either “Do it faster” or “get as high as you can before you die,” the latter of which really is just the same thing as Story mode anyway.

Each time I made a new checkpoint though, I was eager to continue my foray up the mystical mountain towards the magic comet. I enjoyed Towering Adventure, but I can’t deny that aspects of the game, from gameplay issues to a lack of variety makes it hard for me to want to take another journey through the game.

Addictiveness Rating: 5/10

9. Appeal Factor

Unless you have really wanted yet another Rainbow Islands game, you’re a devotee to Bub and Bob, or you’re looking for a an hour long (once you get good at the game) platformer, you’re probably not going to be that interested in Rainbow Islands. There are many better RI titles out there, although none for this generation of consoles.

Rainbow Islands really does belong in the past, as Taito has tried to remake it over a half dozen times now, and NONE of them have been particularly stellar. For what it is though, Towering Adventure isn’t a bad little game for eight dollars. I mean you could do a lot worse. At the same time, you could do a lot better and for cheaper. After all, Bubble Bobble Plus is only six bucks.

Appeal Factor Rating: 4/10

10. Miscellaneous

For eight dollars, you’re getting an okay platformer that tries to bring back glory to the Rainbow Islands franchise. Granted, Towering Adventure falls short of the mark, but it’s better than previous remakes of RI. I didn’t mind my time with Towering Adventure even though in some ways, it sports the worst graphics I’ve seen this generation. Perhaps if this game had been given the attention and budget that Bubble Bobble Plus, we could have had a real winner here. Instead, we have a game with a lot of potential but without the follow-through to live up to any it. I can’t recommend Rainbow Islands: Towering Adventure outright, but I can say it’s better than several thirty or even forty dollar games I’ve played through this year.

Miscellaneous Rating: 5/10

The Scores
Story/Modes: 3/10
Graphics: 5/10
Sound: 5.5/10
Control and Gameplay: 5.5/10
Replayability: 4/10
Balance: 7/10
Originality: 3/10
Addictiveness: 5/10
Appeal Factor: 5/10
Miscellaneous: 5/10
Total Score: 48
FINAL SCORE: 5.0 (MEDIOCRE GAME!)

Short Attention Span Summary
Always the bridesmaid and never the bride, Rainbow Islands: Towering Adventure continues this franchise’s pattern of always being stuck in the shadow of Bubble Bobble. For two dollars less than this game you can get one of the greatest puzzle games of all time and with extra modes that showcase why Bub and Bob are some of the most iconic game characters of all time. With RI:TA however, all you are getting are three modes that are exactly the same save for one small thing differentiating each mode. The game does nothing particularly well, but it also doesn’t doing anything poorly save for some of the worst character models I’ve ever seen in gaming. At eight dollars, you can certainly do a lot worse than this mediocre platforming jumpfest, but I still can’t recommend it save to long time fans of the franchise or platformer zealots.

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