A brave attempt to modernise a classic that that proves evolution is not always a good thing
The PSP is fast becoming the first stop for classic retro compilations and quality updates of old favourites. Just look at the likes of the Megadrive Collection or the very good After Burner: Black Falcon.
So remakes and updates of classics area good thing then? Well, not always. There is an old adage – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Never has this rung more true than with Rainbow Island Evolutiuon.
Rainbow Island first appeared in 1987 and was a sequel to the Taitos Bubble Bobble. The idea was simple. Each level is an island that is sinking into the sea. You have to guide either Bob or Bub to safety, high up in the air. To achieve this you had to use a combination of platform jumping and rainbows. The key part of the game was this ability to produce rainbows that could be used as platforms or weapons. You could make about 8 that would either disappear over a short period of time, or after being jumped on. Each level various baddies to be avoided or killed, using your rainbows in various ways. Each island also had a boss, that was basically a more powerful version of one of the islands monsters. There were various powerups and secrets to be found taking a simple premise and producing pretty deep platformer.
Jump forward 20 years and we find ourselves in the middle of a remakes craze. Games publishers are remaking classics with varying degrees of success. So Rising Star Games chose to give Rainbow Islands a bit of an update, producing Rainbow Islands Evolution.
First of all they add a story line, something music related, which requires our heros to now be Hurdy Gurdy carrying Mexicans (I kid you not)
Next they update the graphics. We get a kind of 3D rendered version of our heros Bob and Bub, in a 3D (ish) world. Now rather than just going up you can move in and out of of the screen on floating platforms.
Finally throw in some new gameplay ideas. Reduce the number of rainbows you can produce at once, 6 from the outset that can be upgraded(used to be about 8). Make the regeneration of these rainbows a bit slower and set it so you have to jump on them twice to destroy them. Add a new idea completely, the Resonator. This is a kind of semi intelligent companion. By rotating the analogue stick, you can call it to you and then produce a kind of special attack, if you get it right.
On paper, this looks like some good ideas. But in practice it seems to destroy the game. Let me explain.
The story line is ok, a bit pointless, but an understandable addition in a era where everything needs a story.
The graphics are not really up to expected standards, looking a bit like they have come from a SNES or Gameboy Advance. The other thing, Sombreros? really was that needed?
The addition of the 3rd dimension, whilst in principle sounds good, in practice it just doesn’t work. The only way to go into or out of the screen, is to jump onto a very slow moving platform. As the level can be finished with out this normally, it just doesn’t seem necessary. The other problem with this new 3D look is that the perspective seems a bit off at times. A platform appears to be in your layer, jump on but and it turns out it isn’t and you fall for ever!
Now the biggy, the new game play elements. There is a key rule in remakes. Don’t mess with the core gameplay, enhance it! Well Evolution seems to have ignored this. As mentioned there is now the ability to only throw 6 rainbows. This can be upgraded, but from the start this is a pain. You can have 6 rainbows out in no time and just be left stranded for several seconds whilst you wait for the first ones to disappear and let you make more! Admittedly the new strength of the rainbows, is helpful. It prevents you destroying your rainbows accidentally by jumping on them.
So not a good start, what about this resonator thing. The idea is simple. Rotate your analogue stick and it will come to your aid. Keep rotating and you will jump ump and down with it eventually producing a kind of musical shockwave that will travel accross the layers, very handy for the mid level boss battles. The trouble is that it doesn’t really work like that. The resonator seems to only turn up when it wants. Charging up a shot with it means standing on the spot and by the time it is charge you have normally been hit and have to try again.
All of these changes really slow down the overall flow of the game. At the end of the day none of them enhance the original in any way. To my mind that is the whole point of doing a remake. Take the original and enhance it for todays players. Sadly Rainbow Islands Evolution just fails to do this, actually harming the core game play dynamics in a way that makes it almost unrecognisable and not all that fun to play.
The Bad: Controls are over complicated, graphics are dated