Twenty years ago, the sequel to the popular Bubble Bobble game, Rainbow Islands, hit arcade halls across the world to widespread acclaim.
Rainbow Islands' draw was its unusual concept of being a platform game that required the player to climb upwards to complete the level, rather than the traditional sideways scrolling from left to right. It was also one of the first games to really ramp up the cute factor.
Back in their youth, many of the Pocket Gamer team loved the original arcade version, not to mention the subsequent home efforts that hit just about every format going – be it computer or console, 8-bit or 16-bit. These conversions were often as close to being 'arcade perfect' as the capabilities of the machines allowed.
Fitting then, that with this latest Rainbow Islands for mobile, Taito (the original maker of the arcade machine) seems to have squeezed just about every ounce of the innards of the arcade cabinet into a handset. It's an impressive feat, for sure.
The idea behind Rainbow Islands is a simple one. You must get your character, Bubby, to the top of each screen, jumping on platforms or using temporary rainbow as bridges. And, as the islands you're on are sinking, you have a time limit to do it in as the water level creeps upwards.
The rudimentary controls of the original arcade machine mean there's no real problem with Rainbow Islands' transition to mobile. You can move your character left and right and make him jump, while pressing the '2' key or the thumb stick makes Bubby fire out a rainbow that can be climbed. Fire another one, followed by another and so on, and you begin to briskly make your way upwards towards the summit.
Your rainbow weapon also enables you to kill the various enemies such as caterpillars, spiders, crows, bats and clowns. You do this by hitting them with a well-timed shot, or else by trapping them inside the arch of the rainbow and jumping on it, smashing it into pieces that shower down over your hapless foes.
Point-boosting items are scattered across the levels for you to pick up and there are also extra lives on offer, power-ups such as shoes which help speed up your character, and pots of gold that enable you to shoot two or three rainbow arches at once, depending on how many you collect. Lose a life, though, and you go back to being the kid with just the solitary rainbow arch.
Each world culminates in a showdown with an end-of-level boss, and each of these has its own specific weakness and demands a different strategy to kill it. The bosses can be tough, especially within the cramped confines of a mobile's button layout, making quick manoeuvres sometimes tricky, certainly for new starters.
Progress is that little bit harder because the game only saves after each boss is destroyed – so if the boss kills you then it's back to the first stage you go, with the knowledge that you'll have to make your way back to the level boss all over again. It's tough.
At least the graphics are more friendly and cute, with an astonishing resemblance to the arcade game. And although the sound effects of the original haven't made it over, the catchy theme tune has, providing a note-for-note rendition.
We're only too aware the original Rainbow Islands arcade game is two decades old, which is an eternity in gaming terms. But seeing the content and gameplay of the original transfer to the mobile phone in its entirety – and so successfully – we can't help but feel a warm glow that all's well with the world.
The oldies among you who remember Rainbow Islands will lap up this fine version of a classic. Meanwhile you youngsters will surely marvel at the simplicity, the cuteness and addictiveness of what is a perfect game for the mobile phone. A grand job all round.