I love the world of indie-titles. There is something about taking inspirations from one’s nostalgia, and reshape it into something new and unique within specified limitations that always fascinates me. Reverie does this as well, but it interested me more due to its direct influences. Unlike RPG Maker-titles that are inspired by Earthbound like Lisa and Yume Nikki, Reverie is clearly taking the style from that SNES-title and mixing it with gameplay influenced by Link’s Awakening. I love both of those games and seeing as the developers tried to make a passion project out of them, I had to see what the result was.
We start off this journey with Tai’s mom telling an old story. Four brothers went fishing together one day, hoping to come home with their canoe filled with delicious seafood. Alas, they fished for hours, but to no avail. Three of the brothers eventually stopped trying and went to sleep, but one of them named Heke continued. Suddenly, Heke pulled up Toromi Island from the depths of the blue! Envy over his accomplishment, the three brothers tossed Heke overboard, drowning him. As he sank into the depths, he cursed them to never be divided and to always try to outdo one another. Right after this, a great storm overwhelmed the three brothers and they were stranded on Toromi Island, with each of them dying of starvation. Their spirits now haunt this island, threatening peace and serenity of its nature to this very day. This island is where Tai, our playable protagonist, is going to vacation at!
Tai’s adventure is one that feels very reminiscent of its inspiration, Earthbound, as the world takes place in a present day setting with some fantastical elements being implemented. Instead of having magical swords or sci-fi guns as weapons, Tai fights with a cricket bat and a dart gun. Yet, he will come across more than just general humans, such as talking chickens and a possessed washing machine. This mix of relatable and magical elements are lovely integrated and gives the overall world a consistent atmosphere and setup. It is all reminiscent to solid cartoon shows for kids that adults can also appreciate for its creativity. I also just love details like how the store sells health-refilling soda, and that the temples are real constructions in the form of basements or a sand castle that you build yourself.
These elements tie in with the tone of Reverie, which I believe is easiest to call cute. It has a bunch of nice characters that come with chuckle-worthy things to say, like a man on the beach afraid the sun is going to turn him into the colour of a lobster. All of this is supposedly done with the Australian culture in mind, from ways the inhabitants speak to elements associated with their land, like kiwi. Reverie is faithful to this concept from what I can tell and makes the setting feel fresh from Earthbound. Even if similarities are to be pointed out, such as how both games star a young protagonist wearing a baseball cap.
I cannot say that Reverie has a strong story or an interesting plot to it, as it is pretty straightforward about your goal being to bring peace to the island by confronting these unnerving spirits. This is fine, but the island is not really memorable due to characters being rather sweet than personal. The same can be said for the dialogues, as they are adorable, but never intriguing or hilarious. This is where I am glad the atmosphere can carry the game so well with fun descriptions of items and the diversity the island brings, such as a bathing house and a mountain with lava in it. Again, it is all cute, like a child trying to make everyday objects into something magical using their imagination. Just with a clear professional touch to it all.
Story Score: 7/10
Reverie might have the style of Earthbound, but the gameplay is more reminiscent of Link’s Awakening. Set on a small island, you will travel through five temples, defeat their main bosses, and collect the plot-important materials in order to progress through the game. All is set in an top-down view, with the game being a traditional adventure style game with combat, puzzles and exploration as the main mechanics. This is where similarities to general Zelda-titles are to be made, but Reverie takes many smart pages from Link’s Awakening that makes the entire experience a comfortable and enjoyable one.
I want to talk about the dungeons first as these are some of the most creative setups I have ever witnessed. Each of them introduces a unique concept that makes them exciting to traverse through, while incorporating a great difficulty curve by one another. For example, the first dungeon will not require any item to beat it, but the later ones will grant a new item each for tackling new puzzles or fiends. There will be a yo-yo for stunning enemies and hitting switches through obstacles with, and a rock named Stephen used to hold down switches and can slide around with a hit from your cricket bat. This makes it so that the items you gather have multiple uses and become fun to experiment with, especially since they are both worthwhile for combat and puzzles.
The puzzles Reverie presents are fantastic, since you will have to be mindful of what the switches will activate and how you must proceed, with even one dungeon revolving around shifting what entrances you can take. None of the puzzles became too obscure to make you completely stuck, but they will force you to plan out events and figure out what items can be useful, which is great. Thanks to autofilling maps and even the possibility to find a complete one for each dungeon, the areas were easy to navigate through and none overstayed their welcome or became confusing.
This is also helped by one neat element taken from Link’s Awakening: warp points. You can always transport between two specific areas that are far apart thanks to panels in specific rooms, cutting down the amount of backtracking you have to do if you ever die or need to come back later. Actually, the overworld itself is lovely constructed too, thanks to clear indications on where you can go, what item is needed for progression and helpful NPCs that will give you hints on the area around (or a cute chuckle).
Though the combat is not as solid as the exploration, it is still fun. Tai can move in eight directions, swing his bat in a horizontal manner that covers a decent area, and hold two items to be used with their respective buttons. Why you cannot use more buttons is something I never truly understood, but at the same time; equipping and unequipping items were quick and never tiresome. Tai also sports a dodge-roll, which comes in handy for both avoiding attacks and getting a move on as his walking speed is quite slow.
However, while it is fun to fight enemies, the variety is only noticeable in the dungeons with some diversity from the rats and bees, as the overworld just recolours them with stronger attacks. Even then, the patterns never truly challenges the player, since they rather idle around or run in chaotic directions. Some enemies will charge at you, but the challenge is virtually nonexistent. This actually made me never seek out health items from the store. There are also two items that are less than stellar, with them being the expensive shoes that only makes you run fast in one direction and the shovel that has limited uses.
The boss fights fare better, but more because they take advantage of the different items the dungeons present in clever ways, giving the fights a puzzle aspect to them. All bosses were entertaining fights with clear patterns, such as the giant octopus you have to destroy one tentacle in order to shoot it and then dive underwater to avoid its projectiles. These dungeons also contain mid-bosses, but they are more like traditional fights where you will only need to be mindful of when to dodge and when to attack with your bat. Despite not being as creative as the main boss fights, they are still tense and entertaining thanks to their faster patterns.
Everything in Reverie is solid and fun with the dungeons being lovely main courses and the areas around giving some room for exploration, despite the game’s linear approach and always pointing you clearly in the direction you need to go towards. While everything is good or even above so, the game is over within two hours, possibly one and a half if you do not explore. Speaking of, because of how little there is to explore, the overworld feels more like a small breather between the dungeons, as there is not too much to the island besides them. Overall though, Reverie presents a strong adventure that is sweet, but over before you know it. Like a summer vacation, it can go by in a breeze and leave you questioning how much you actually did, but you cannot deny how much fun you had at the same time.
Gameplay Score: 7/10
Cute charm can create a civilisation
As stated earlier, it is not hard to see that the presentation was inspired by Earthbound, which was again inspired by Peanuts due to their big heads and more casual outfits. This style is well utilised in Reverie, with simple attires that brims with strong and distinct colours, making everyone in town recognisable by their design alone. I also love how relatable the locations can be, while still showcasing clear cultural heritage, like a farm for kiwi trees, a small town with rundown arcades and a simple shop, and beaches with tons of seagulls where you decide to build a ginormous sandcastle.
This world is realistic, but always gives you small aspects of wonder for the supernatural, like venturing through a giant tree as a dungeon, or swimming to different parts of the island that seems to be haunted. It is a nice way to create a strong atmosphere and make it familiar, yet unique. That being said, Reverie does not always go far enough with its concept. A big problem stems from the minor times where the immersion can be broken, like when a boss key is ripped straight from Zelda or when the only type of enemies you see in the overworld are bees, birds, rats and statues, with perhaps a recolour of each.
Though the biggest problem is really the game’s technical style, but rather as a design-choice. I believe the developers wanted to make the game reminiscent of a GBA-title, as areas are more barren with few details and instead have more abstract use of colours, which fits much better on a smaller screen. However, even on a Switch, it can make some areas look bleak with only the occasional constructions bringing back the immersion. The overworld really lacks finesse in this regard, but I always wondered what would have happened if it was ported to the GBA. Would it then be comparable to Mother 3?
However, it is easy to forgive this when you are fighting a giant hedgehog, venturing through a dungeon under the island’s church, or realising that one of your best tools is going to be your pet rock! This keeps the visuals memorable, yet different from Earthbound due to its vacation setting. Similar to how Link’s Awakening was to A Link To The Past if you will. There is also a sense of accomplishment to see your room decorated with the plot-important materials.
The music is solid, but repetitive, even if each dungeon and area have distinct tracks to them. No track became a chore to listen to, as they fit their respective locations, such as the humble town of Harikoa having a nice guitar and xylophone playing an uplifting and calm tune or the magical tree using pan flutes, drums and tambourines for its melody to add to the mystery. These are nice tracks, but they come with only one form of rhythm each, never really making them evolve as the song progresses. The only song I disliked was the actual main theme, as it sounded like a mess of tunes with no clear highlighted instruments. However, it is overall a nice soundtrack. The sound effects are standard, but not varied enough to leave any form of memorable impression.
Presentation Score: 7/10
Gotta have something to do on your vacation
A lovely detail is how achievements are viewed as a stamp collection, giving you a visual treat on how to close you are to completing the game. These are about more than just finding specific items, such as kicking a ball into a touchdown, play a shooting game to get a high score and more, adding to the charm of the exploration. Any side activity to do is simple, but fun and solid enough to make you hooked and always pay attention.
All the sidequests will reward you with feathers to collect, which are also scattered around the island. While it can sound like a wild goose chase, Reverie is kind enough to let you know in what area you are missing feathers at, making exploring still an entertaining aspect and not a blind hunt. However, the reward you get for finding all of them rather feels like a nice addition to your arsenal instead of something worthwhile. That is, unless you take upon an optional dungeon that is unlocked after finishing the game. It contains gauntlets of fights that will put you up against multiple bosses in the same room, and it is quite the exciting challenge. Even if the reward is just a pat on your shoulder. I suppose this game is truly about the journey rather than the end.
Extra Score: 7/10
As you might have seen by the scores overall, Reverie is simply a good game. It is an interesting diet combination of two great games, that still makes it into a fresh experience. It does not break any boundaries, do anything exceptionally well, or lasts very long, but everything is executed with quality and care to make this an entertaining adventure. I definitely believe it is worth your time and money compared to the Link’s Awakening Remake for sure. I do wonder though what Rainbite could have actually done with a budget, when this was made with zero.