Game: Black Rainbow
Genre: Adventure, Puzzle
System: Nintendo Switch (also on Steam)
Developer|Publisher: Cateia Games | Ocean Media
Age Rating: EU 7+ | US E (Everyone)
Price: UK £8.99 | EU €9.99 | US $9.99 | CA $12.59| AU $ 15.00
Release Date: 9th April 2020
Review code used, with many thanks to Ocean Media!
Black Rainbow initially released on Steam back in April 2014, but PC to Switch ports can be tricky, so did this 6-year-old title get the treatment it deserved?
Point-and-click adventures typically revolve around one of 2 scenarios; escape (either your own or assisting someone else’s), or the end of the world. Black Rainbow initially starts as an escape game – you’ve just got home and found your village on fire, with crazy tribes-people causing mayhem. So, after a few initial hiccups, you make your way out of the village.
As expected, something goes wrong and you inevitably crash into a dense Amazonian jungle. This is where the story starts to morph into a classic end-of-life-as-we-know-it scenario. I won’t say anything more about the story, because I don’t want to spoil it, but I very much enjoyed the way the story progressed in a pleasantly organic way. Unfortunately, the protagonist has absolutely no personality or reaction to the ensuing events, but that’s a common theme among point-and-click adventure games.
Point-and-click adventures are always nice and simple to play. You search scenes for hidden objects and puzzles which lead to story progression; although sometimes puzzles will require you to move between a number of locations and backtrack to complete them. Most point-and-click adventures will require you to manually move between these locations by navigating scene-by-scene. Black Rainbow, however, implemented a very useful quality-of-life adjustment, and added a quick-travel function. Pressing the Compass brings up a quick-travel map from which you can travel to any previously visited scene, and it even has a small marker on scenes that you can progress in some way. It’s a small thing, but it made navigation much easier in the sprawling environment.
Playing Black Rainbow, I could tell it was a PC port before I even looked it up; the item interactions are remarkably precise, perhaps more so than is ideal on the Switch’s smaller screen. While there is the option of single joy-con control, in which you use the right control stick to move a cursor and the RT button to “click”, touch-screen feels much more natural for this style of game. Unfortunately, that meant that the precision necessary was sometimes difficult to achieve, especially as the Back navigation has an entire invisible strip along the bottom of the screen as opposed to it being just the button displayed; sometimes objects are at the very bottom of the screen only a fraction above the invisible button.
It did get frustrating, however the game was still fun to play as I adapted the further I went, and by the time I hit the 2-hour mark I was barely mis-clicking any more.
Graphics, Sound, and Performance
Unfortunately, the nicely done story and far-from-terrible controls were drastically let down by the graphics. From what I can see, there was absolutely no graphical overhaul as part of the Switch port, and you can really tell that no effort was put into it. Regardless of whether I played in handheld or docked, the cutscenes and lengthier animations were jerky and disjointed, and while the backgrounds were pretty the foregrounds were a thorough disappointment. Fuzziness galore ruined the interesting and vibrant world I was wandering through, and it almost felt like the graphics hadn’t been scaled right; sometimes portions seemed to be missing off the top of the screen, and the slight blurring around the edges of most elements reminded me of an image scaled to the wrong resolution.
The sound was nothing impressive. It wasn’t bad, but I wouldn’t call it good either, it was just there. It did add atmosphere, and a silent game would have been far worse, but an updated soundtrack would have done the game a huge favour. The voices reminded me of old-timey B-movies, with oddly-paced dialogue and a complete lack of emotion leaving me with no interest in the characters.
Regardless of whether I was playing handheld or docked, I encountered a fair amount of lag during interactions. It was never for very long, only half a second to a second, but in a point-and-click game it’s instantly noticeable. As I never played the original I can’t say whether this is unique to the Switch port, but I definitely expected better.
There’s a fine line between too easy, just right, and too hard when it comes to difficulty in this style of game. Make things too obvious, or or too obscure, and people will very quickly lose interest. Black Rainbow tackled this nicely; toggles for the two assistance options gave the freedom to adjust it to my own personal preference.
The puzzles were nice and varied, with some being as simple as bring A to B, and others as complicated as speeding rings up and down to make each colour match. The hardest part was sometimes spotting the objects in the scenes, which depending on your perspective can be either good or bad. I found it frustrating, as sometimes I simply had to click randomly around a scene to find something because I just couldn’t see anything. Once I’d acquired the objects though, there was logical sense as to where to use them – nothing is as frustrating as a puzzle element that makes absolutely no sense.
A true throwback to the point-and-click adventures of days past, Black Rainbow takes a good story and decent controls, slaps some sub-par graphics and neutral sound on top, and still comes out as a quite enjoyable game. It took me around 4-5 hours to complete, and while £9 isn’t that expensive it feels a bit much for a lacklustre port. The Switch is capable of so much better, and it’s games should be too.
Final Verdict: I Liked It