There wasn’t much of a drumroll or a sense of anticipation around Rainbow Billy: Curse of the Leviathan. When it arrived in September 2021, we hadn’t heard much about it at all, in fact. But that made our playthrough even sweeter, as we felt like we were unearthing a bright gem. We gave Rainbow Billy: Curse of the Leviathan a 4/5 and praised it for its inclusive design, colourful graphics and inventive puzzles.
What intrigued us was how much it bucked the norms. Here was a family-friendly game that went to dark places; it was an RPG that eschewed violence; and it managed to tuck about four different game types into one package.
Emerging from our time with it, we had questions about Rainbow Billy: Curse of the Leviathan, and ManaVoid, lovely people that they are, agreed to answer them for us. Many thanks to Christopher Chancey and Anthony Vaucheret-Rosabal for giving us the lowdown.
Q – Could you quickly tell us who you are, and what your involvement was in Rainbow Billy: Curse of the Leviathan?
CC: My name is Christopher Chancey, I’m the CEO of ManaVoid Entertainment and I acted as creative director on Billy for a little while, but now I’m mostly executive producer on the project.
AV: My name is Anthony Vaucheret-Rosabal, and I’m the Artistic Director on Rainbow Billy!
Q – How would you describe Rainbow Billy: Curse of the Leviathan?
CC: Rainbow Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan is a wholesome, creature capture, 2.5D Adventure-Puzzle-Platformer with over 30 hours of gameplay! It is a family-friendly, openly accessible, RPG-infused adventure in which you must save whimsical creatures by bringing back color to the world you once knew!
Rainbow Billy tells a universal coming of age story about dealing with changes in the world and accepting ourselves and the others around us! Sometimes it only takes a conversation, empathy, and a new point of view to make a world of a difference.
Q – Rainbow Billy’s art seems to reflect the very earliest days of animation. Were there any artists or films that you drew inspiration from in particular?
AV: I was very inspired by early Disney shorts, seeing the success of games like Cuphead and Bendy and the Ink Machine really opened up the possibilities for this artstyle to thrive in video game form. It’s a style that I’m very fond of and we knew we could deliver something that could look great and differ a lot in terms of gameplay from everything else on the market.
Q – There are so many different parts to Rainbow Billy, from platforming to puzzling to combat to seafaring. It feels ridiculously ambitious for an indie game. Was that how it felt to develop?
CC: Scope is always the game designer’s nightmare! There’s always more content or more features that can go into a game and although we made sure that everything fit elegantly together in Rainbow Billy, we certainly didn’t leave anything on the shelves. The game is certainly ambitious, but in the end it is the result of our complete vision and we’re quite proud of that!
Q – Games haven’t had a long or successful history with exploring inclusivity and wellness, but Rainbow Billy tackles it head on. Yet the results feel authentic. How did you achieve it?
CC: Authenticity is the right word, and that’s how we approached this project. We wanted to make a game that was close to our values as a studio and that we could project our life experiences in. Everyone on the team has had a significant impact in the game, the diversity in points of view that emerged from the character designs, themes and subjects in the game were really exciting to be a part of. We also surrounded ourselves with consultants to make sure we were representing communities and certain subjects with the right approach and sensitivities. We took the time to do things the right way.
Q – Rainbow Billy is a non-binary main character. How important was this choice to ManaVoid and the game?
AV: Representation is extremely important to us! There are enough white heterosexual dude games out there for a lifetime, but people who are different don’t always get heroes they can dream of becoming or see themselves in the characters shown on screen. At an indie level, we wanted to showcase the coming of age story of a child who is discovering themselves. We had consultants to help us tell that story the right way and we couldn’t be prouder to have been a part of showing a character that you rarely see in video games.
Q – Combat, if you can call it that, is very much non-violent. In fact there are very few violent moments in the game at all. What made you make this choice?
CC: The confrontations in the game went through so many different variations, it’s really crazy. There was a match-3 system in there at one point! I had read an article in 2019 about there being only 17% of games at E3 that year that were considered non-violent. That statistic stuck with us. Video games as a medium can do so much more than just hit things and show blood… We wanted to be a part of the change we’d like to see in the industry.
Q – The shape-based card game that is used to represent ‘combat’ feels unlike anything we’ve played. Where did it come from?
CC: Everything in the game revolves around colors, but having two programmers on the team who were different kinds of color-blind really made us think about our systems with accessibility in mind. Each color is associated with a shape, so no matter your level of color-blindness you can play the game and perform!
Q – Did you have any attack minigames that were left on the cutting room floor?
AV: Probably! The design team never ran out of ideas for this one, but at some point the game needs to ship! XD
Q – Our favourite parts of the game were the bits in the Friend-Ship, but it became less and less of a focus as the game wore on. What made you spend less time with our mate the Friend-Ship?
CC: The game is all about Billy’s coming-of-age journey. Starting out extremely shy and afraid, ending up courageous and willing to confront whatever the world wants to throw at them! Paying attention to this, you’ll notice how it gets easier to explore further and further as the game progresses, Billy being able to stay out of their safe space (Friendship) for longer periods of time. Even Rodrigo ends up pulling back as the game chugs along, leaving space for Billy to express themselves until the final confrontation. 🙂
Q – The nightclub song is still rolling around in our head. How important was getting the soundtrack right? And can we expect the soundtrack to become available?
AV: Haha, we must give kudos to Antoine Vachon for his amazing work composing the soundtrack and the many musicians and collaborators that participated in making the games’ music. The three-hour soundtrack is currently available on Steam, Bandcamp, Spotify and Youtube, please go and listen to it!
Q – In one of the boldest moves, the secret of Rainbow Billy’s story is saved for the end credits. What made you hold back on it for that long?
CC: We wanted everyone to be able to project themselves in Billy’s story and relate with some of the characters encountered along the way, so we didn’t want to be too on the nose about the main story as it might stop some people from connecting with the character. That being said, the entire game is about empathy and seeing things from a different perspective. The ending credits ties all of this together as you get to see what happened to Billy for them to find solace in this imaginary world.
Q – If you started development of Rainbow Billy afresh today, what would you change?
CC: I think we wouldn’t tinker around as much with the confrontation system, there might be a full world out there that was designed but never made into the game as well. But honestly, we couldn’t be prouder of the game we’ve come up with and all of the little mistakes we made along the way were just the creative process we needed to go through in order to get there.
Q – Can we expect any more adventures of Rainbow Billy?
CC: Billy’s story doesn’t end there, hopefully players will want to know more about what happens next! 😉
Q – And finally, which of the game’s gift items would level you up? 😉
AV: SO many of them, but honestly the friendship bracelet, there’s nothing you can’t face out there when you’ve got friends in your corner! 😉
If you’re in the market for a more laidback RPG, puzzler or platformer, then we can say without hesitation that Rainbow Billy: Curse of the Leviathan is worth a purchase. Give it a whirl for only £21.74. It’s available on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, PS5, Nintendo Switch and PC.
If you’ve been playing Rainbow Billy: Curse of the Leviathan and have your own take on its technicolour thrills, then let us know in the comments. Did we get it wrong? Or are you of the opinion that this will be a future cult classic?