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ManaVoid Entertainment‘s Rainbow Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan is one of a number of successfully funded Kickstarter gaming projects. Originally entitled ‘Steamboat Billy’, in 2018 the game made CA$ 88,480 of its CA$60,000 goal and in 2021 it finally saw launch with the assistance of publisher Skybound Entertainment (The Walking Dead and Invincible author Robert Kirkman’s multimedia baby). The adventure RPG describes itself as a cross between The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Pokémon “set in a classic Disney-like universe in which you must defeat and capture strange monsters while sailing the dark seas”. Rainbow Billy certainly has elements that may appeal to fans of either title however the game doesn’t truly shine.
In Rainbow Billy, you are the happy go-lucky protagonist in a vibrantly coloured world that is reminiscent of every preschool cartoon you can imagine. One day the evil Leviathan steals all colour and joy from the world, and it is your job to restore it. To do so you must recruit new friends and hunt down key items.
Exploration is a mix of sea- and traditional land-fare. The world is populated by a series of small islands across four main areas and to reach them are harsh seas intent on snatching you and holding you back. Liberating the islands requires befriending a depressed creature that has become marooned there and some islands require the unlocking of abilities to fully be able to explore.
The main highlight of Rainbow Billy is in its combat. At the start of each turn in Confrontation, you are invited to Talk or Listen. Listening can glean you hints to assist in Talk, and Talk can, when successful, reveal weaknesses in battle. When the battle properly begins, you select creature friends that have skill shapes that can match those of your enemy. Finding and matching all your enemy’s shapes will win the Confrontation and make you a new friend that can help in future. To add extra variety to Confrontation, the shape-matching will require the completion of mini-games to utilise the attack – failing them can minimise or negate the effectiveness of your turn. Additionally, each of your friends has their own useful ability. It is complex to describe but easy to pick up.
There are other solid elements in Rainbow Billy. Exploration is nice. Traversing the world, fishing, and finding collectible Thought creatures adds some neat distraction from the main quest. Aboard Friendship, you can use Thoughts to upgrade yourself or obtain cosmetics for the hull. You can also speak with your new creature friends, give them presents and fishy treats, all of which will upgrade them with more shapes to utilise in Confrontation.
Issues of slowdown are common. There are also times where you may stumble across an area that the developers probably didn’t intend for you to reach – and can be inescapable (requiring a restart and long loading screen to surmount). The fixed camera also makes it difficult to navigate or gauge positions on the overworld, too. While annoying, those are relatively forgivable compared to the game’s most trying flaw.
When it comes to Rainbow Billy, the biggest drawback comes in the writing. The most immediate issue is its length. There are dialogue chains that are extremely long – some exceed ten dialogue windows and seldom advance the plot. Worse, the quality is lacklustre. It is often so twee that adults will cringe, and when it comes to talking about mental health issues (and, in combat, suggestions to combat negative thoughts) it is oversimplistic and borderline insulting. A bit more time, research, and fine-tuning would have improved matters, but one also suspects that the writing is also confused about who its audience really is. The dialogue is twee enough for kids to perhaps accept, but lengthy dialogue will drain even the most average of attention span.
Overall, the game is just about average. If you can skip most of the dialogue, you will get a reasonably fun time-killer out of it. Rainbow Billy has some good ideas and elements of quality, just be extremely, extremely patient when it comes to the dialogue (or skip it entirely).
Rainbow Billy is out now for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
Nintendo Switch review code provided by Skybound Entertainment.