For two years running, the Wholesome Direct has been a breath of fresh air. Taking place shortly before E3 2021, Wholesome Direct sat at the other end of the corporate scale to the likes of Microsoft and Nintendo. Exclusively featuring independently developed games, the stream took on a much more inclusive and welcoming tone than many of the large scale showcases that loomed over it.
One of the games that really caught my attention during the hour-long showcase was Rainbow Billy: The Curse Of The Leviathan. Featuring an unusual mix of 2.5D art, platforming and creature capture mechanics, it’s a game that stood out in a showcase filled with unique concepts. Above all else, it was the game’s colourful aesthetics and upbeat tone that helped it stand out as something special.
I spent some time with Rainbow Billy recently and played through a short demo that introduced many of the game’s core mechanics. Right from the off, Rainbow Billy is upfront about its colourful world, placing Billy in a town filled with adorable, and visually dynamic characters. From here, you are tasked with collecting a number of fireworks hidden across the island and earning them through minigames. This section played like classic platformer titles of the late 90s, channelling the likes of Mario and Banjo Kazooie.
Minigames are simplistic, demanding that players simply fish items from the seabed, or press button prompts with specific timing. This will likely be expanded upon in the full release, but for now there’s enough to keep the early game interesting. My only real complaint during the platforming sections is that the game’s 2.5D art style can make it difficult to visually see where Billy is. I found myself misjudging a number of platforms because I simply could discern where Billy was going to land.
With all the rockets found, Billy’s primary antagonist is introduced, a big leviathan that sucks the world of all its colour. It’s shortly after this meeting that Rainbow Billy introduces it’s other primary mechanic: capturing creatures. More accurately, you meet a number of interesting characters on your journey, which Billy can persuade to join his team. This mechanic mixes the capture elements of Pokemon with the passive persuasion and conversation battles of Undertale. Rather than beating creatures into submission, you have to talk to them and persuade them to join your side.
In an industry that is so often focused on violence, it’s refreshing to play a game which focuses on non-violent methods of progression. Each creature typically has a problem, or is defensive about a specific subject, and it’s up to you to talk them down. This is done through two different things, listening and communicating. Once you’ve persuaded a creature to join your team, you can further build your relationship with them by giving them items you find throughout the world. Building relationships then unlocks abilities you can use during battles.
Between the game’s platforming segments, exploration on creature capturing, players traverse the sea between each island on an adorable tugboat. There are hazards between each area which will deplete your fuel, so you have to be careful as you travel. It’s not the most complex travel method, but it serves its purpose as a simple way of travelling between two points. I’m hoping the boat sections open up the possibility of optional exploration in the full game.
Although the demo only provides a brief look at what’s to come, I enjoyed what Rainbow Billy had to offer. It’s certainly not the most complex or challenging game, but it’s a breath of fresh air to play something that doesn’t solely rely on violence as it’s primary method of interaction. I do think the platforming needs some additional polish, but this colourful adventure is already off to a flying start.