One indication that this attempt to translate the Rainbow Islands
franchise into the 21st Century was successful comes from the reaction most gamers will have, something along the lines of, "Eh?" Most retro gaming seems very thin in comparison to the games of today that throw everything and the kitchen sink at players in terms of character actions, environment, item collection, combat, etc. Rainbow Islands Evolution
eschews the complicated gameplay and sticks to what it did best all that time ago. You play as either Bubby or Bobby and set off to storm the record-company headquarters and demand justice. To reach your destination, you'll have to climb through level after level of the terribly off-kilter denizens of your land, and face off against bosses in each stage determined to keep you from your goal. The ability to play music that can stop the menace before it gets out of control is passed to Bubby and Bobby in the form of the Hurdy Gurdy. Most folks wouldn't think of playing music on a hurdy gurdy, and it's not like this one makes it easy to play music. No, all the Hurdy Gurdy does well is create rainbows and magic bubbles. One wouldn't expect these things to have that special, world-saving power, but in fact they do. It all sounds like a great plan until you realize that you'll have to use every rainbow and bubble at your disposal, AND climb up higher than Jack ever did on his beanstalk, to save the land.
The gist of the gameplay is to use your special power for creating rainbows and climb up a series of levels, defeating enemies and bosses along the way. The rainbows you create are solid enough to walk on and double as weapons. The two playable characters have slightly different stats, but nothing that makes one a strong choice over the other. There are special abilities you'll gain as you move through the game, including the additional support of the Resonator. This device must be charged by cranking it up, or rotating the analog stick. The outcome of a successful Resonator charge is that you send a burst of energy off into the distance. It's wasted on most enemies, but incredibly useful for boss battles. There are big bosses at the end of each major stage and you'll meet up with them as mini-bosses along the way. The mini-boss is strangely positioned since you aren't really required to battle it in order to complete the level. Most of Rainbow Islands Evolution is built this way, with lots of item collection, power-ups, and enemies to battle that are technically optional. As the game helpfully points out, you'll have a much more difficult time defeating bosses if you haven't powered up your character and continuously charged the Resonator along the way. The multiplayer is even more stripped down, the goal being simply to outclimb your opponent and achieve the goal in the shortest time. The biggest difference between Rainbow Islands Evolution and its ancestor is the addition of new depth, literally. Instead of just climbing vertically, you can jump onto platforms that slide between islands you can see off in the distance. Again, this doesn't really make a huge difference in the ultimate goal and can actually slow you down, but for players that love finding all the extras it means there's at least twice as much game here. Depth plays a big part in boss battles since you use the Resonator to blast them as they hop around in the distance.