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Game Design Essentials: 20 Mysterious Games

January 14, 2008 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 21 Next

3. Rainbow Islands

Bubble Bobble with even more secrets

Developed by Taito

Designed by Fukio Mitsuji

Reason for inclusion:

The item generation scheme for this game isn't quite as complex, but it's still possible to make the items you need with some planning. Then there's the means players must undergo to obtain jewels, which must be collected in order to get the true ending. And then there's the super goals obtainable by getting the jewels in color order, and special permanent powerups for doing so! And then there's the secret levels! And then there's the secret ending for not dying! And so forth! Exclamation point!

The game:

While definitely a successor to the play of the first game, Rainbow Islands discards much of Bubble Bobble's item generation criteria. Instead, just killing a lot of enemies without dying will eventually produce the more useful power-ups. But it has even more secret areas and endings to find. It is probably the king of the Bubble Bobble play style because of it.

The basic mechanic of the game is to create rainbows, this game's analogue for the bubbles in the first game, and trap enemies beneath them. Then the player can jump on the rainbow, sending it crashing down and killing all the enemies beneath it -- sending them flying around in an arc before coming to rest on a platform. When multiple enemies are killed this way at once, they produce colored gemstones.

Levels can be finished three ways. The main way is to just go through and beat the boss, but if even one level is cleared that way, the player cannot get the best ending. It's really a trap, for although the enemies are the cause of lives lost, and spending a long time in a level also kills the player, the player can't just make progress normally and really win the game. He has to worry about other things along the way.

To really beat a level, one gem of each color must be obtained before the boss. Gems are generated by killing multiple enemies at once, but their colors seem random at first. Perhaps predictably, there is a trick to getting needed colors. When an enemy flies around after dying, the X-position of the place it comes to rest determines the color of gem that will appear there. The left edge of the screen is red, the next seventh of the screen over is orange, the next yellow, and so on through the spectrum, ending with violet at the right edge.

Each level has four stages, and the gems carry over from stage to stage. So to "super-clear" the whole level, the players must have gotten one gem from each vertical stripe of the screen in the stages leading up to the boss. Doing this causes the boss to reward him with a giant gem upon its death, and finishing the normal last level with all seven giant gems makes the real last levels available. (Cleverly, they're all based on other Taito properties like Arkanoid and Darius). Those levels have mirrors instead of gems, but they're obtained the same way. Getting all of them allows the player to win for really, really real... if he can beat the last boss, that is.

But there's more. If the players collected the gems in color order, from red to violet, then when the boss is reached, a special door will appear. Entering it skips the boss, rewards the player with his hard-earned diamond, and grants him a permanent power-up that lasts the rest of the game. This is all on top of the usual find-the-hidden-object gameplay shenanigans.

Design lesson:

Riddles and mysteries abound in this game. Secrets cannot make a game all by themselves, and Rainbow Islands' core play mechanic, while good, isn't quite as strong as Bubble Bobble's. Yet while both are long games even when played normally, no one who completed either game in the arcade and seen the Bad End could mistake that there was more left to do.


Perhaps the most complete resource on the game is the Rainbow Islands Info Pages.


Article Start Previous Page 4 of 21 Next

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