Indie roundup: Rainbow Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan, Gleylancer & Space Revenge

Three more indies to explore today, as we check out Rainbow Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan, Gleylancer and Space Revenge, all of which were recently released on all major consoles – though Gleylander doesn’t officially launch until later this week.

Rainbow Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan review (PS4)

Skybound’s Rainbow Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan, which was developed by ManaVoid Entertainment, is a very different kind of game despite some familiar elements. It uses the notion of friendship as a core gameplay mechanic to deliver something unique and memorable, making for one of the most family-friendly indie games this season.

In a moment of deja vu, Rainbow Billy uses a game world in which color was removed and replaced with black and white – instantly reminding us of games like TOEM, Chicory and Inked, which all came out recently as well. Let’s just say it’s the indie look for 2021. Chicory in particular used this as a gameplay mechanic, and Rainbow Billy puts its own spin on that – using color as a metaphor for friendship and positivity, which is a delightful change from the videogame norm when you compare the game to others that use platforming, puzzle solving and turn-based mechanics.

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Protagonist Billy travels through the game world spreading friendship and color, and does so while sailing on his Friend Ship. He’s a cheerful guy whose instinct when facing adversaries isn’t to immediately pounce on them, but rather engage with them in conversation to try and befriend them. It’s a big change from the usual “battles” we see and definitely nothing like the verbal battles in The Secret of Monkey Island either. It’s also not just a case of “hit X to befriend”, as there is (surprisingly) a lot more to it than that if you want to restore color to these grumpy characters.

Battles are won through a combination of conversational choices, which include just listening to what they have to say at first. Different choices unlock different colors and shapes, and you’ll use these to win a battle – or rather, win over a new friend. Mixed in with that is a diverse selection of little mini-games you play as well, which include Arkanoid-like gameplay and simple cases of tapping the face buttons at the right time. Even beyond these mini-games, different characters introduce different mechanics that help change up the gameplay, often temporarily limiting your ability to use some of the characters you’ve previously added to your group of friends.

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The overall tone of Rainbow Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan is sugary sweet, as you’d expect, so players need to have a tolerance for games that go out of their way to be as non-violent and cheerful as they can possibly be. As players with young children who are forming friendships, this was easy for us, and it made us feel quite forgiving to the game’s shortcomings – which can be seen mainly in the platforming sections that look and feel a bit basic. The game more than makes up for that with tons of heart though, and hopefully we’ll see Rainbow Billy return for future adventures.

Gleylancer review (PS4)

Gleylancer reintroduces us to a classic arcade-style shooter from the early 1990s, and it’s memorable for its name alone. Its misspelled international name (which was supposed to be Greylancer) still brings a smile to my face, and comes close to Zero Wing’s legendary “All your base are belong to us” line.

The game didn’t originate in the arcades though, as it was originally developed for Sega’s Genesis/Mega Drive console. Playing it almost 30 years later points out something else too – it takes place in the very near future, in 2025. According to Gleylancer, this is when an alien force invades and a massive battle follows between them and the “Earth Federation”. You’re Lucia, a brave teenager, and when your father gets taken by the aliens you commandeer a starfighter to take the fight to them.

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In what mostly looks like a standard horizontal scroller, Gleylancer has a rather interesting mechanic that lets you cycle through different speeds – letting you either gently weave through enemies and incoming fire or speeding across the screen when you really know what you’re doing and want the opportunity to take everything you see down in a hail of weapon fire. The latter is partly handled through pickups as well, giving you access to a number of fairly standard options like a laser, multi-directional shots and bombs. These are operated by gunners who fly with you and attack the enemy for you, making your job a lot easier as long as you can keep them safe.

Further customization comes from how you handle your loadout, by which we’re referring to the position of your gunners in relation to the ship. You can have them cover your rear or let them shoot targets above and below you, or you can choose to have them fire forwards with you – which helps when fighting bosses. Since it’s a choice you make prior to a level, it’s a tactical one, and not one you can change mid-level. What does change in real time is how they behave from that position, as holding down a button can add nuances to how they aim.

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Gleylander may not be the classic that Gradius is, or a household name like Darius, but it’s an oft-forgotten cult classic that we were glad to play again. Beyond the mechanics described above it’s a fairly typical home console shooter from its era, but that also means you get more content that is typically included in an arcade title from the same era. Shooter fans will want to take note when it arrives on Xbox, PlayStation and the Switch through Ratalaika.

Space Revenge review (PS4)

One thing we like about the indie scene is that we see certain developers suddenly pop back on our radar after a few years. EskemaGames is a good example, because this is the solo developer behind FullBlast, which we reviewed in 2018 when it hit the PlayStation Vita. Now, EskemaGames is back with the rather generic title Space Revenge, which is being published by JanduSoft for PCs and consoles.

The narrative premise for Space Revenge, just like its title, feels like it could have been lifted from a sci-fi B-movie. Having traveled to another planet, you quickly come into contact with an oppressive force that ends up killing your parents. You join the underground, and the game kicks off when you’re ready to exact your revenge. Cue tons of shooting and boss fights as you storm the enemy’s base of operations.

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Gameplay-wise, Space Revenge is a typical twin stick shooter that spreads its action and story out over the course of 14 levels – most of which have a few objectives for you to complete. With two main characters to choose from, four big boss fights and a handful of weapons and ammo choices, it’s a game that ticks all the usual boxes for the genre – though this one comes at a very pleasant low budget price point.

Space Revenge features a top-down with a camera perspective not too unlike that in games like JYDGE, but it uses a more sci-fi like palette of metallic and blue colours instead. There is an almost cell-shaded like look to the characters as well, which gives the game more of unique sense of visual character amidst otherwise fairly formulaic gameplay.

This is a good little B-movie like experience that won’t leave a lasting impression but will provide fun while it lasts. Trophy enthusiasts will also be glad to know that the game is eager to dispense its trophies, because even though the campaign will last you an entire evening or more you can grab every single trophy well within the hour – probably much less if you try.

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