Everything is simply delightful in Star Harbor as everyone is gearing up for a massive celebration. Their joy is cut short, however, when a massive dragon-looking creature known as the Leviathan rises from the depths, destroying the town and turning all the colors of the world into monochrome. Our hero, Billy, manages to escape the creature’s curse and make it out to sea, and must now travel across the world to find three sacred treasures that can help stop the Leviathan and bring color back into the world.
At first glance, the story of Rainbow Billy might seem like any cutesy MacGuffin hunt featuring some wacky characters. But it doesn’t take long for the story to show a surprising amount of depth. Yes, in terms of broad strokes it’s about finding the mighty things that are able to beat the bad dude. But soon enough it’ll show its true colors, revealing a nuanced coming of age story about facing your insecurities, accepting both the good and bad in people, and the power of friendship, all told in a fun, optimistic, and easily digestible way that even younger players will understand and appreciate. It’s a beautiful and heartwarming story that had me emotionally invested from start to finish.
The gameplay on display is an interesting mix of ideas that for the most part works really well. At the offset it’s a 2.5D explorative platformer. You run around, occasionally jumping to reach higher places, picking up coins and items that help you get various upgrades. I will say that the platforming and exploration isn’t flawless though. I feel that the top-down/isometric perspective does mess with depth perception at times; most of the time it’s fine, but I’d be lying if I said that there weren’t times when I got tricked by the camera. There will also be times when you’ll have to solve a puzzle to move on. These aren’t super difficult, but they’re a fun little distraction.
As you explore each area you will, at some point, encounter a creature of some sort. And as you approach it, it’ll talk to you and challenge you to a figh- no, sorry, a confrontation. When this happens, you’ll be pulled into a little pocket dimension that looks like the inside of a box (which I find adorable). And it’s in here that things start getting extra interesting. First off, it becomes a turn-based RPG. And secondly, there is technically no “attack” command. Instead you’ll first be greeted by the options of “talk” and “listen”. If you choose to talk, you get a few options of what to say to your opponent. If you then choose the right option (which usually is the one that sounds the most compassionate and kind), the enemy will reveal what attributes they are weak to, represented by colorful shapes situated above their heads.
Now we get to the main battl- sorry again, I meant confrontation part. When you get to this part, you will get handed these things that looks like poker chips that feature the faces of your friend(s). Each of these chips have a set color that it can dish out. So if your enemy has a green rhombus above its head and you have a chip with a green rhombus on it, you can then summon that one to “deal damage” to your opponent. But wait… THERE’S MORE!
The game then pulls another weird mechanic out. Say you choose to end your turn, which is when you trigger an “attack,” you then enter a little minigame that you have to win if you want your “attack” to land. It can range from hitting buttons in a certain rhythm to moving a little head around so it doesn’t get hit by damaging objects (very bullet hell inspired) to a few other things. It’s a very unexpected mechanic that adds an extra bit of depth and tension to confrontations. And even as you get used to these systems, the game starts adding in opponents with gimmicks that can throw a spanner in the works, which kept me on my toes from start to end. When you do succeed in defeating your opponent, they will become your friend and help you out in any future battles, so that’s neat.
One final gameplay element to mention is that each level is connected by an ocean that you travel across using your sentient boat named Friend-ship. So yeah, the gameplay on display is a really interesting mix of ideas that come together surprisingly well.
The game’s graphic are pretty nice. Environments are mostly 3D, but with some nice cel-shading, giving it an almost comic book-y look. Then you have the characters, all of which are these flat 2D drawings. The two style blend together beautifully, making for some really pleasant visuals. There are also a handful of brief animated cutscenes to help emphasize certain story beats, and I really like how those too. It’s just a nice-looking game.
On a final note about the presentation, the music here is absolutely stellar. Early on, you get the typical jaunty, cute mix of woodwind, xylophone, and triangles that can be heard in many kid friendly properties. But then it’ll start branching out, not just with the instruments involved, but even with genres. You’ll hear some typical orchestrations, but you’ll also hear country, jazz, rock, and a few others I don’t want to spoil. But needless to say, the music here is an interesting blend of styles, and I found all the tracks to be fantastic.
Rainbow Billy: Curse of the Leviathan caught me completely by surprise. It’s a really fun puzzle-platformer-RPG with really nuanced writing and beautiful presentation.
[A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review]