Review: Rainbow Islands: Towering Adventure!

The Rainbow Islands series spun off from Bubble Bobble as a sequel, opening the door to a brand new franchise. Following the “true ending” of the original Bubble Bobble game, the game was an adventure involving human forms of the iconic dragons Bub and Bob, escaping from rapidly sinking land masses via rainbow. It might sound silly, but it garnered mostly positive critical reception and received several sequels. The latest of which, Rainbow Islands: Towering Adventure, was recently released via WiiWare and the Xbox Live Arcade. While it manages to capture most of the magic that made its predecessors memorable, much of the whimsy is dwindling with this next-gen update.

Rainbow Islands: Towering Adventure places you into the shoes of a young boy with the power to summon rainbows at will. These tangible, colorful delights act as platforms in order for the boy to climb, jump, and cruise upward. The rainbows are pivotal, as they provide the only means of transportation throughout each vertical level. Each stage requires you to reach the top of a towering set of platforms before time runs out. Instead of transitioning between separate areas for each level, switching from a prior completed level to a brand new location is absolutely seamless — you are, after all, traversing one simple tower. Any time left over from motivating up those platforms like a bat out of Hades will rollover to aid in your next conquest, which is fairly useful if you’re not so good at the game (like me).


Towering Adventure prizes speed above all else, but much like Mirror’s Edge, it falters when the idea of combat is introduced.  Enemies perch in waiting at every level of your ascent, ready to attack and hinder your progress. A simple rainbow can knock them out. In turn, they’ll drop several different powerups that will extend the range of your rainbows, add extra time to the clock, and deliver other surprises that will aid in reaching the top of each stage. However, there is a downside to the simplicity of taking the baddies out: taking even a couple hits can absolutely wreck the time you have left over.

You don’t simply regain health or “hearts,” as your health IS your the amount of time left on the clock. Taking damage will deduct time from the clock in increments of 30 seconds or more. Harsh! While it’s simple to eliminate smaller enemies found throughout, endboss fights introduce far more sluggishness to a game that relies on urgency and effiency. If you’re lucky, you can zoom right past one of the many cretins who would impede your progress such as a giant crab-drill hybrid, and so on. But battling the several monsters you’ll encounter over the course of the game takes away the thrill of the escape while making it increasingly difficult to conquer each stage without worrying about how much time will be deducted at the next turn. Granted, a little difficulty never hurt anyone, but I believe Towering Adventure could have turned a fairer eye to its mechanics regarding the reduction of time from one simple hit.

At least the visuals are striking and colorful. An obvious update from the game’s beginnings, everything is lacquered with a beautiful, technicolor finish. Even your enemies fit into the rainbow color scheme, orchestrated by whimsical and sprightly music that increases in urgency as you run out of time.

Despite its shortcomings, Tower Adventure still manages to be quite a bit of fun, especially when played with a co-op partner. The lack of online cooperative play is a bit unsettling, as local play with friends is a blast. It’s much easier to nab powerups and treasures while looking out for each other when another human is present, so it’s confusing why Taito felt that Time Trial or Challenge modes were included rather than a mode that would have been used much more widely.


For a classic update, Rainbow Islands: Towering Adventures wavers. Its glossy graphical update as well as gameplay we know and love remains intact, but it just doesn’t capture the magic the way the good old 2D versions did. Without online co-op and the addition of tedious boss battles and fighting in general, I’d recommend this only if you’ve played and enjoyed the previous Rainbow Island adventures, as this iteration may not inspire you to go back and complete the rest with its several missteps. Hopefully we can see a re-release of previous greats in the future instead.

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