This article was written as part of the Make a Wish Week Amigathon. Donations are now being accepted to help fulfil the dying wishes of terminally ill children.
Captain Planet didn’t have the monopoly on saving the world from eco-terrorism. Before the plastic Superman wannabe took to the skies armed with an anti-seal clubbing banner and a Vegemite butty, before he was even out of short pants in fact, Greenpeace were working to “ensure the ability of the Earth to nurture life in all its diversity”, campaigning against the leading threats to our environment; overfishing, climate change, deforestation, commercial whaling, toxic chemical poisoning, genetic engineering, and radioactive contamination.
In 1989 their efforts to edutain the masses extended to commissioning MicroProse to produce an Atari ST, Amiga and Commodore 64 computer game to accompany their global ecotage policy. Development was subcontracted to ‘Source the Software House’ and oddly enough the title was published under MicroProse’s ‘games for adults’ label, MicroStyle.
It wasn’t what you think, and doesn’t make any sense, now or then. The brand was created to distance MicroProse’s new action-orientated titles from their traditional simulation/strategy fare, suggesting that the likes of Railroad Tycoon, M1 Tank Platoon and Gunship 2000 are for the kiddies, while Rick Dangerous and Xenophobe are aimed at a more mature audience.
Rainbow Warrior was named after Greenpeace’s original former trawler, eco-crime fighting vessel, which was rigged with explosives and detonated in 1985 by the French secret service to put the kibosh on the charity’s efforts to protest against state-sanctioned nuclear testing in the Moruroa Atoll. The ship’s name itself was coined as an acknowledgement of the Native American prophecy found in a 1962 book titled Warriors of the Rainbow by William Willoya and Vinson Brown.
Tragically 35-year-old Portuguese Greenpeace photographer, Fernando Pereira, died in the attack, though it’s all water under the bridge now because 30 years on, one of the bombers has apologised… whilst simultaneously eschewing responsibility for the orders he felt compelled to blindly follow. Hmm.
Two more Rainbow Warriors have since been adapted/purpose-built to carry the seafaring baton for the next generation, and a music album CD was pressed in 1989 – under the same title – to commemorate the noble causes the ship has been involved in.
Rainbow Warrior comprises a set of seven sub-games that revolve around eradicating real-life environmental hazards or examples of animal cruelty. Six can be selected from the main menu in any order, however, these must first be ticked off the to-do list before tackling the seventh. You begin with nine activists in your party substituting for lives. One is lost each time your energy expires, or you’re arrested for trespassing on private property, meddling with equipment and so on.
Playing as Echo the Dolphin in the ‘save the whales’ Arkanoid clone mini-game, your goal is to destroy the rows of bricks by blowing bubbles at them to reveal a lovely portrait of a school of whales.
Ironically you’re rewarded for hitting friendly levitating objects such as whales or Greenpeace dinghies in that any bricks they subsequently glide past are automatically cleared. On the contrary, you’re penalised for taking potshots at hunks of whale meat steaks, perfume bottles and hunters; any blocks they zip over are restored, transforming the task into a kind of arcade Groundhog Day. Fathoming out how any of this equates to animal rescue of any kind is the main conundrum, however.
Another game plucked from the lucky dip toy box – set at the Muckybridge power station – requires you to enswathe a series of smoking chimneys with a ‘stop acid rain’ banner, one giant letter at a time. These are scooped out of passing unmanned dinghies forcing you to traipse up and down ladders and monkey-swing between them to retrieve and deposit the segments in the correct sequence.
Complicating matters further, police and other thugs patrol the dock looking for eco-dissidents to harass with spanners and lumps of coal. You may wish to steer clear of those acid rain clouds too seeing as that’s the purpose of the assignment.
After all that hard work you might be tempted to drop into Antarctica to cool off, if only you didn’t have sentient, floating aerosols to destroy in order to save the ozone layer. Having paid attention in chemistry classes you’ll know the best way to approach this one is to hurl snowballs at them. Well if you don’t, the CFCs (banned in the US in December 1995 incidentally) will mutate the shambling penguins into gruesome assassins. Obviously.
Meanwhile back in the water, more philanthropic deeds await your planet-saving expertise. Paddling up to the side of a trawler in your dinghy you find yourself compelled to clamber aboard and scowl a bit at the shady crew who are engaged in dumping toxic waste barrels into the sea. It’s all totally non-confrontational of course because we’re the good guys and this is a family-friendly game.
Swerving the sailors and their water cannons you’re tasked with scaling and disabling the cranes responsible for facilitating the fly-tipping. A collision with the ne’er-do-wells or police – who the developers have tried their utmost to portray as equally disreputable throughout – results in the loss of energy, being sent to jail, or booted into the deep blue yonder to swim with the fishes.
The Canadian Arctic is no place to chill out when you’ve got adorable little seal cubs to protect. Dashing back and forth across the shifting ice floes spraying them with – hopefully organic – green paint is your only means of deterring the pelt rustlers from pilfering and hawking their prized possessions (apparently fashionistas weren’t so fond of sludge green that season).
To test your mettle further there’s the ever-present threat of nuclear subs armed with missiles, and the club waving hunters themselves who are hell-bent on drowning you. That said, they might stand a better chance if they weren’t so eager to commit suicide!
Body-swapping with Echo once again, you must scour the Irish seabed for nuclear pollution-spurting waste pipes. Once identified, your accompanying divers take care of the damage limitation operation by nailing them shut. That is as long as you can guide them there safely, eluding radioactive seaweed, sharks, squid, shrimp and jellyfish before your air supply or energy runs out. It appears that being immersed in the effluence of sulphur dioxide itself isn’t so much of a cause for concern, so that’s some positive news amidst an avalanche of cataclysmic doom and gloom.
Your ultimate challenge – well the final one anyhow – is a Space Invaders style mini-game where you embody the famous Greenpeace ship, launching missiles into various airborne swirling objects such as suns, moons, bombs, toxic waste barrels, doves and hazardous waste symbols.
Again rather bizarrely, shooting the welcome, natural items is encouraged by the appearance of jigsaw portions of a portrait depicting a woodland scene featuring a couple of grazing sheep beside a river. Attacking the baddies, on the other hand, causes the pieces to vanish, eventually leaving you right back at square one.
I’m not quite sure what this teaches us. That shooting doves – the most recognisable symbol of peace and hope – is something to aspire to? If you’re struggling with a tricky puzzle, why not try blowing up the sun, the wellspring of all life on earth?
Letter bubbles when shot take their place along the top of the screen to spell out the phrase ‘sweet rain, pure rivers, clean sea’. With those and the last slice of the picture firmly in place, your work here is done, you’ve “freed the spirit of the Rainbow Warrior” and can slope off to slip into your comfy straw moccasins and pour yourself a refreshing cup of dandelion tea.
In the same year Rainbow Warrior the game was released, Rainbow Warrior II the deep sea fishing schooner made its maiden voyage adopted and upgraded by Greenpeace. She wasn’t decommissioned until 2011 by which time the super-vessel had “challenged the legal system and won… confronted environmental crimes, relocated the population of a South Pacific Island contaminated by radiation, provided disaster relief to victims of the 2004 Tsunami in South East Asia, and sailed against whaling, war, global warming, and other environmental crimes on every ocean of the world.”
Talk about making your presence felt! Perhaps us emancipating the spirit of her predecessor was the catalyst she needed to step up to the plate and take on Captain Pollution and the Eco-Villains. Which is far more than can be said for the eponymous game that received mediocre to awful scores across the board (69% – Amiga Action, 66% – The Games Machine, 76% – C&VG, 42% – ACE, 47% – ST Format, 50% – Atari ST User) before evanescing into obscurity never to be spoken of again, until now.
No-one should be remotely surprised. For a game brought to life through the collective efforts of 11 developers, Rainbow Warrior looks and plays no better than a random assortment of public domain AMOS games held together with some mouldy Blutack, a brittle elastic band and a scandalous £24.99 price sticker.
Any sense of cohesion, logic or fun is sorely lacking, and our wimpy cadre of protagonists can’t even fly or shoot lasers out of their eyes. It’s lucky for Greenpeace they weren’t relying on this alone to change the world or we’d still be worrying about climate change, finding a viable alternative to fossil fuels and nuclear weapons testing.