Taito released Bubble Bobble in December of 1988 and became a huge success on the NES and in arcades around the world. The original Rainbow Islands was an unseen and unpopular spinoff released almost two years after the hype had died around Bubble Bobble. So, this is a remake of a spinoff, most of us weren't expecting too much. It's also quite funny to note that Rainbow Islands Revolution, or RIR, has shipped at the same time as Codemasters re-release of Bubble Bobble, Revolution. RIR features the same happy style gameplay and music as its original, and simply revamped graphics and went with new technology, the touchpad, unlike the Bubble Bobble re-release. This is RIR's downfall.
Taking a page from Bubble Bobble and making a spinoff is one thing, but going stride to stride after being unsuccessful almost two decades later is just plain brain dead. The similarities have actually been so close that they have packaged both titles together as a compilation. They still share many qualities, but RIR doesn't hone in on the most important of goals, which is to make a game playable to the point where it is physically fun to do so. Players wander around a vertically scrolling map of platforms taking out enemies with rainbow power, meaning the original concept is still intact. Somewhere along the way, this DS version has lost something. It still uses the same maps, enemies, characters, and powers, so what else? As mentioned it still sounds and looks fun, so what's wrong? A touch-screen activated action game is what's wrong. Action plus touch screen does not work, at least not in the way Codemasters has gone with it. Thus instead of a fast paced jump/fly around and kill platformer, RIR drags along with a stylus controlling movement and attacking. It's much like having the SIXAXIS available for a PS3 game and forcing the player to play a game fully with it. For the most part, it's cool to have it included, but it should never be the primary control source.
Movement is made by starting your stylus on the character and then drawing a line in the direction you want the bubble to go. Enemies fly around until you strike across them with a rainbow strip. Dropping a strip over an enemy is done by tapping the strip after you draw it. There are special attacks as well, such as drawing a circle around an enemy to trap them in a bubble under your control, drawing a triangle that sucks enemies in and then you can take them all out in one click, or drawing a star after your star gauge is full, which one tapped will clear both screens of enemies. Yes, both screens, meaning the top screen is simply used for seeing further up. You can also draw a strip across items to pick them up, or drag your character over them. RIR is definitely a unique idea, but the execution is just lame. The character can only be moved at a specific rate with the touch screen, yet enemies move at different rates. If not stopped by the stylus, the bubble continues to move. It's like you need to do two things at once but you really don't have the time to. Rainbows themselves can only be painted so fast, or else the game will not recognise it. Combined the gameplay comes to a halt, and really just makes you want to put the game down. Once down, you'll never feel like putting it back in the DS.
It doesn't help that RIR isn't cheap either, being priced at the higher end of the DS price point, when it should have clearly had an arcade classic price tag. The game doesn't even allow other players to connect off one cartridge, your friends will also have to go out and purchase the expensive game in order to start up a game of multiplayer. This is almost unheard of on DS these days, and is unacceptable considering the game is far less system intensive than others such as Mario Kart or Tony Hawk, which feature download and play options from a single cartridge. VS mode can get old fast anyway, simply being a race to the finish.
If you were a fan of either back in the day, or even enjoyed Bubble Bobble Revolution, RIR is not the route to take. It might make a good rental if someone is carrying it, but past that, the game is just hard to play. Wasted potential.