I’m absolutely enchanted by games that make a point to bring a bit of the creative team and the developer’s own lives into the titles. When you get full blown biographies put into a game, it can be a bit overwhelming, but bits and bobs of what is going on in the real world can be endearing. Titles like Asura, Mulaka and even Wulverblade put me into the realms and shoes of people from cultures and histories that I’ve never encountered in such a way, and it was exciting and refreshing as a result. Truthfully, I know very little outside of my own world, so for Rainbite to create a game here that really gives me a full glimpse into the spirit of New Zealand was welcome and exciting. Thus, we jump into Reverie: Sweet As Edition.
Reverie puts you in the shoes of a young man named Tai, who goes to visit his grandparents on Toromi Island, which may or may not be a real island in the New Zealand area. In a very short amount of time, he finds himself wrapped up in a mystical quest to deal with some unsettled, cursed spirits that inhabit the island, who are all based on a variant of the Maui legend that many people may have learned about from Moana last year. Over a short but sweet length of time, our hero will find treasures, explore dungeons, fight any number of bizarre bosses (the very first one is a possessed dryer) and bring peace to both the island and to the spirits that were damned for murdering their brother. It sounds much, much darker than it is, trust me on this.
Reverie is a top down action adventure that is unabashedly in line with the great 16 bit adventures of yesteryear, specifically Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. Tai starts out with a map and a cricket bat, and gradually find the dungeons where the spirits reside, gathering more weapons and accessories as well as powering up your health bar. You fight crazy animals and beings that feel right at home with the world of Toromi, and you occasionally stop to chat with folk who have a little something to tell you about their lives and their daily routine. You might also find a side quest or two as a result of helping them out, but nothing that deviates too far from the main adventure.
That is one negative thing I need to say about Reverie: Sweet As Edition right up top: it’s damn short. My initial adventure took me probably three hours, and I went into this thing totally blind and without any frame of reference. About a good twenty minutes was spent trying to figure out how to get to the second dungeon, and, after that, things just picked up momentum and went. There is a constant undercurrent quest to find feathers scattered throughout the island, and it’s fun enough, but it’s not mandatory nor is it difficult. The mini games that have been baked in with this special “Sweet As” edition are varied and good distractions, but not something you need to invest in heavily. The game at the arcade is decent, playing pong against a goddamn microwave took me way longer than I care to admit, and the rewards were cool but I think I could have beat the game without them. If there wasn’t a heart to Reverie, then everything would be a one-and-done game that would be easily forgotten after a couple more days of playing literally anything else.
But here’s the great news: Reverie is packed to the brim with heart. As much as I abhor doing game to game comparisons, Reverie really felt like a mixture of The Legend of Zelda with Earthbound. Zelda because the game doesn’t have a grand scope, but it does have a clear mission statement and a good balance between success and reward. As you move forward in the game, you learn to approach enemies with different mechanics and attack patterns to make the most of your time. The dart gun isn’t super accurate, but a single shot will take down those annoying bees from a distance. Using your yo-yo to stun enemies long enough to run through is usually better than killing them because there is zero refractory period for respawn if you leave a room. Enemies will pop right back up if you step out and step back in, making grinding coins for those running shoes a cinch (which I then promptly never used because I couldn’t control them). Bosses take calculations and planning, and often times you gotta die once to get a grip, but that’s hardly a problem when you just respawn at the beginning of the dungeon, nothing lost and no penalties in terms of the cash you’ve picked up.
The puzzles that you run into at different legs of the adventure are there to break up the monotony of simply going from room to room, yet there wasn’t a single one that really took extra effort or attention in order to pass. If you’ve had any game before where panels need to be triggered, blocks need to be pushed or targets need to be hit, you’ll figure it out. Hell, the longest time spent was seriously the first “puzzle” to get to the second dungeon, and that was because a.) I’m an idiot and b.) I spent way too long hanging out with koalas at the hot spring and giggling over everything that was happening around me. Why were koalas at a hot spring? Because Reverie is as Kiwi as you can get with a game without just straight up moving to New Zealand.
I was blown away with how honest and inviting Reverie felt in terms of giving me the New Zealand experience. Everyone has something to say with a bit of inflection, slang and guff to make it a real part of their home. The enemies aren’t just random beasts, they’re based on things that you would find out in the wilds near Auckland or Christchurch. There are flags in the main town proudly proclaiming where you are, a rugby pitch not far from your grandparent’s home, and a forest full of flightless birds for you to discover when you’re wandering about (which, finding them also unlocks a hilarious achievement, which is worth it all its own). This is like someone took a 16 bit snapshot of New Zealand and superimposed a storyline of mysticism and lore in order to make it more unbelievable and exciting in the same breath. The quirkiness of the world, combined with a very attuned, upbeat soundtrack is what hooked me into the “Earthbound” sort of mindset. There’s nothing overtly strange or intentionally “wacky,” it’s just the nature of everyone who lives here and how they make you feel. Someone on the beach telling me how awful it is to have sand in their crack just brought out a cocked eyebrow and my vocal utterance of “I don’t even know you, man.” It’s phenomenal, and it gave me the strength to go back and play pong against that microwave one more time.
To sum up Reverie in a word, it’s charming. It’s utterly charming and delightful in a way that I rarely see in adventure games nowadays. You can easily come back to Reverie and play it again and again and enjoy the flow and the excitement of stepping off the boat all the way to the final showdown. Once you beat it, there’s a Nightmare difficulty to give a try at, which I recommend because the initial play did seem a bit forgiving (enemies dropped pizza constantly). The game is so well optimized on the Switch that the transitions might as well be seamless, the quick select item wheel is more functional than the normal map toggle, and it’s perfectly at home on the Switch, taking up almost no space and delivering so much play. This game is so endearing that I want to pick up a physical copy to proudly display on my shelf and have to remind me about this title once in a while. If you have any love for adventure games that have that distinctive “Nintendo” flavor, then Reverie: Sweet As Edition should not be missed.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
Reverie: Sweet As Edition Review
User Review( votes)
Reverie is, hands down, one of my favorite adventure games in recent memory, and an amazing fit on the Nintendo Switch.
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