"For starters, the new-and-improved premise is really, really stupid. In action-puzzle games that should not matter. But it does, because controlling a sombrero-wearing, hurdy gurdy-wielding imp against the evil forces of the despotic recording industry (Million Records Company) is as ridiculous as it gets – so dumb that it offends."
Sometimes, progress should take a seat in the back, and let tried-and-true drive. The original Rainbow Islands was simple and fun. Taito’s efforts to update it for the next generation make a remarkable case for ‘don’t fix what ain't broke.’
For starters, the new-and-improved premise is really, really stupid. In action-puzzle games that should not matter. But it does, because controlling a sombrero-wearing, hurdy gurdy-wielding imp against the evil forces of the despotic recording industry (Million Records Company) is as ridiculous as it gets – so dumb that it offends.
At first, the gameplay itself actually seems to be authentic. As Bub or Bob (here, Bubby or Bobby) you’ll crank out solid rainbows with your trusty hurdy gurdy to facilitate your ascension from platform to platform, up, up and away into the sky. Naturally, enemies will get in your way, and you’ll kill them with rainbows, trap them under rainbows, or use rainbows to bypass them altogether.
Right away, Taito’s changes make this new game suffer. There is a tight limit on how many rainbows you can have up at one time, and bringing down the rainbow house on trapped enemies is harder than it should be. But we won’t let this stop us; Steve Perry told us not to stop believing.
Soldiering on, you’ll notice the platforms off in the distance – they’re not just part of the scenery. A transport platform will move lugubriously along between the three layers of action (front, back and way way back). Here is another attempt at quite literally creating more depth in the game, which has gone awry. The tiresome traveling only serves to unnecessarily complicate things.
More than likely, you’ll ignore the background layers of action and just stick to climbing the foreground, thumbing your nose at the good times and wonderful items you’ll miss out on. As you continue to climb, you’ll eventually stumble into mid-boss territory, which really only serves as irritating interruptions of your carefree ascent. Some tin-eared record company 'musician' will assail you with tuneless emanations from his weapon of choice (e.g. a drum set. Don’t laugh – you’ll remember that yours is a hurdy gurdy.)
When it happens, you can’t help but feel as if these boss appearances were only implemented to bog things down. Luckily, you can fly right on past him now; sadly, you’ll need to fight him only at the conclusion of the level in a proper boss confrontation anyway.
So now you’re at the boss, and you’ll notice your rainbows can’t hurt him. And so the final straw for me was when I noticed the idiotic little R2-D2-esque accomplice called the Resonator, which must be employed to hit the boss with a rainbow discus of sorts. How to do this? By rattling the analog stick just as fast as you can. Apparently, the bosses can make use of the Resonator too, so you have to rattle that analog stick until your thumb gets sore and the plastic nub is ready to break, in order to keep the little guy on your side creating Rainbow Wheels. Wonderful.
If all of this is sounding off-putting and convoluted, it should, because it is. The only fun you can squeeze out of Evolution is in your first few climbs as you either explore for the first time, or try to recapture (for the old school fans) the essence of the basic Rainbow Islands experience: making and clambering on top of rainbows so that you can touch the sky. The feeling will quickly be supplanted by boredom and indifference, thanks to the overwhelming, meddling influence that progress can have.
Staff review by Marc Golding (March 04, 2008)
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