A wholesome combination of turn based RPG, creature capture, mini-games and adventure puzzle games, Rainbow Billy: The Curse Of The Leviathan is a family friendly adventure worth a look. The Finger Guns Review.
For me, there’s a line with how wholesome a game can be. I’m not trying to be macho here – I’ve willingly consumed some of the most positive and morally pure games on the market – but I feel there’s a point in which a game can be too sickly sweet with its content. Rainbow Billy: The Curse Of The Leviathan, the latest game from ManaVoid Entertainment and Skybound Games, regularly gets close to that line. Despite it making me want to roll my eyes at times though, it’s all in service of a chilled, non-threatening vibe which is constantly charming and child friendly. This is just about the most wholesome game I’ve played in quite some time, offering a colourful, engrossing, fun and interesting game with a poignant message about the power of empathy.
Rainbow Billy: The Curse Of The Leviathan follows the adventure of the titular character, Rainbow Billy. The spirited lead for this game lives in a vibrant 2.5D world – he, like every other character, is presented in 2D, designed like a 1930-40’s cartoon, but the world in which they live is 3D. While hosting a celebration of his heart colour in his home town, Billy and his friends let off a barrage of colourful fireworks. The bangs and flashes draws the ire of The Leviathan, waking it from its slumber. Rising from the ocean, this mighty sea beast curses the World of Imagination and strips it of its colour. As it does so, it drains the hopes and dreams of everyone who lives there, leaving them with nothing but their insecurities and anxieties. This transforms them from Technicolor characters into black, white and grey hostile husks of what they once were. Rainbow Billy manages to escape this fate, leaping aboard the Friend-Ship (a literal ship who is also Billy’s friend) while fleeing a monochrome tsunami. Along with his faithful companion Gyro, a Cyclops dog, and a sentient stick called Rodrigo, Billy sets out to retrieve 3 coloured orbs in order to restore colour to the world in the only way he knows how – by being nice to people.
The 3 coloured orbs that Rainbow Billy is on the hunt for are situated in 3 different themed lands within the World of Imagination. These lands are made up of many different islands that the Friend-Ship can sail between under the control of the player. There’s a catch however – The Friend-ship runs on Rainbow fuel which depletes when it’s driving through the black and white ocean. In order to refill the fuel, Billy will need to restore colour to some of the ocean around the islands he visits before the Friend-Ship can travel any further. This is a really smart structure for the game because it funnels the player from island to island while giving them the illusion of choice in where they go next.
Once at an island dock, Rainbow Billy and Rodrigo can hop off the Friend-Ship and can go exploring. Each chunk of land represents its own challenge. Some offer little more than collectables, obtained with a little bit of platforming. Others host a travelling merchant that’s still trying to sell his merchandise, despite the world losing all of its colour. The larger islands house a combination of things like puzzles, quest objects and, most importantly, the monochrome inhabitants of the once colourful world.
Coming face to face with these inhabitants triggers this game’s version of a battle. However, because there’s no threat here and the sparring is purely verbal, they’re called “confrontations”. The aim of each of these is to lift up, support, empathise with and fulfil the foes requirements, represented by a series of coloured shapes that float above their head. You’ll need to do this before Billy runs out of Morale which is reduced at the end of each turn. The trick here is that you’re not initially sure of what coloured shapes are required as they’re greyed over. At the start of each turn, you’re given the chance to reveal a few of these shapes by having a conversation with the anxious or insecure character. For example, a snail character will say “I’m too slow to do anything right”. Three responses will then be shown on screen – 2 of which are supportive and ‘correct’, saying something like “It’s good to take your time with things”. These will reveal 1 to 3 of the greyed out shapes. The third response, usually brash and undermining, will get an angry response from the character and will harm Billy’s Morale. The correct responses are always quite obvious here so long as you’re paying attention. Some characters need a different type of validation or acceptance than others.
Once you’ve uncovered the type of shape you need to play, you’re onto the next aspect of the confrontations. Every character you’ve previously rescued from their monochrome maudlin joins Rainbow Billy on his adventure. They’re represented during this section of play as small discs with coloured shapes on them that correspond to what the opposing character needs. You’ve given a number of moves per turn to play these discs on a 3 x 3 grid. Once you’ve finished your turn, you’ll trigger a number of mini-games depending on how many of the 3 lanes you’ve played discs in. These mini-games come in a variety of forms – a fruit machine in which you’ve got to stop each dial on a colourful icon, a Breakout style game, a QTE event and more. The better you perform during these mini-games, the more of the coloured shapes will be sent across to the black and white character. When they arrive, these shapes will fill in the empty spaces that match up. Once all the shapes have been filled, the character will transform back into their previous colourful form and join Rainbow Billy on his adventure too.
As you progress through Rainbow Billy: The Curse Of The Leviathan, these confrontations become ever more varied. The shape types required to return the colour to a character constantly grows in variety in line with the new characters that join your motley crew. Some verbal battles have little unique twists too – In one battle, you have a time limit on playing your character discs and in another, playing certain characters will re-hide the shapes behind a grey screen.
After a character has joined Rainbow Billy’s crew on the Friend-Ship, they can also be upgraded. Via a fishing mini-game (which is more like a crane game than fishing, to be honest) and uncovered in the world, you’ll find gifts and gummy sweets which can fulfil these character’s needs. By doing so, you’ll increase the variety of shapes they can provide during confrontations. While this is optional, and the game will accommodate for shape types you’ve not yet encountered, this certainly makes confrontations easier. That’s not to say these encounters are difficult – I’ve only ever failed on these when I’ve accidentally pressed the wrong button – but by levelling up your friends and crew, it does make them much simpler for younger players when a single disc has the possibility of providing 3 different shapes instead of one.
Bringing the colour back to these black and white characters also inspires the surrounding world to regain its glorious hue. This, in turn, allows the Friend-Ship to restock on Rainbow Fuel in the now colourful water, which allows further progress around the world. The World of Imagination has many of its own game play, progress blocking elements however. There’s plenty of platforming for Rainbow Billy to get stuck into but again, there’s no threat here. Fall off a surface and you’ll simply respawn where you were last safe with no penalty incurred.
You’ll also come across a number of different puzzle types, many of which are simple (like pressing levers to raise or lower platforms in a particular order) with some head scratchers which are a bit tricky. The most complex puzzle involves pushing snow balls around a lattice of paths, ensuring each ball passes through a set number of snow piles before they reach their final destination. Only a little bit of forethought is required but none of my younger kids could work this one out.
All of this comes together in a really pleasing way. Sailing from island to island, solving puzzles to move forward then saving more creatures from their greyscale crisis never really loses its charm throughout Rainbow Billy: The Curse Of The Leviathan. At times, the game slows a little and gives you more long form quests to achieve – during the second world, you’ll be reuniting a band with their instruments – but these barely feel like a diversion. It’s game well structured to keep the player moving towards the bosses that await and the unique challenges they pose.
There’s some really deep messaging to be found throughout Rainbow Billy: The Curse Of The Leviathan. At its core, the game is all about empathy and acceptance of those things that make us unique. No matter the foe you come across, it’s central to the experience that you, as the player, understand the issues that they’re going through and that it’s okay to be different. This permeates every aspect of the game in some really impressive ways. Whether it’s picking the right responses during a confrontation, each of which is unique to the character, or the more central story of Billy’s quest to return colour to the world, empathy and acceptance is integral to the experience.
While I enjoyed playing Rainbow Billy: The Curse Of The Leviathan myself, eye rolls none withstanding, the joy it brought to my kids was undeniable. My 8 year old twins are now obsessed with the game. As soon as they finish school, this is the first thing they ask form. They’ve enjoyed almost all of it and there’s only a hand full of sections that they’ve found to be challenging, all of which stuck out to me as an adult as a touch irritating. The primary section is a series of clam shells which bounce Billy up a series of platforms. There’s some timing required here which simply come out of nowhere and are more annoying than they needed to be. My kids have also bemoaned the lack of voice acting in the game too; There’s a lot of text to read in the game and the lack of voice acting means that they’ve occasionally skipped sections of story to get to the nitty gritty that they enjoy.
Taken as a whole, Rainbow Billy is a high quality, well designed and thoroughly enjoyable family friendly adventure. Centred on some powerful messages that it delivers well, the game might be a little too wholesome for adult gamers but if your kids are anything like mine, they’ll love Rainbow Billy and his quest for a colourful comeback.
A few niggles aside, Rainbow Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan is a well structured and engrossing family friendly adventure. Revolving around the themes of diversity, inclusivity and, most importantly, empathy, it’s a wholesome game that carries a powerful message that it deftly delivers via almost every facet of its game play and narrative. If you like your games to be relatively threat free while including the best aspects of combative games, Rainbow Billy will likely be right up your alley.
Rainbow Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan is available now on PS4 (review plarform), Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC.
Developer: ManaVoid Entertainment
Publisher: Skybound Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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