Capsule Review: Reverie

A basically-solid New Zealand-themed Zelda-like, but a bit too simple for its own good.

(A note on versions - the game was first released for PS4 and Vita in 2018. A slightly improved version was released for Switch in 2019 with an additional subtitle as Reverie: Sweet As Edition.)

A top-down 2D action adventure game in the Legend of Zelda mold, set in New Zealand and revolving around an invented legend based on actual Māori mythology. Play as vacationing boy Tai exploring the fictional Toromi Island, gaining new items and abilities as you explore dungeons, solve puzzles, and defeat bosses.

The charming New Zealand setting sets Reverie apart and is perhaps its greatest strength, and frankly I wish it had leaned into it more. The game is at its liveliest at the beginning when you are exploring the town and environs and meeting a lot of NPCs. But there’s very little reason to continue interacting with most of them and you meet far fewer as you strike out into the wilderness for the later dungeons, leaving the game feeling increasingly generic and lifeless.

The structure is fairly standard for this kind of game. You find and clear a series of dungeons, gaining new items that open up new areas of the overworld to get to the next dungeon. The dungeons include puzzles and combat and culminate in boss fights, and in between it’s possible to explore off the main path and find some secrets. This is all serviceable, but shallow - you simply have too few options to keep things interesting. Your primary weapon has only one attack, with a short and somewhat difficult-to-read range, meaning it’s very easy to bump into enemies you’re trying to attack. Most of your items have single niche uses that make them feel more like keys on a ring than tools in a belt, especially since all the puzzles are just variations on hitting switches to unlock doors. The secret collectibles aren’t incremental improvements like health and ammo boosts - instead, if you collect them all you get an extra item. This means that each individual collectible is fairly meaningless, as you only get the reward if you collect all of them which you can’t do until the end of the game when the reward item is rather pointless.

Reverie is a basically-solid New Zealand-themed Zelda-like, but it’s a bit too simple for its own good. More interesting uses for weapons and items and more depth to the New Zealand character and worldbuilding would have helped a lot.

I Stopped Playing When: After six hours, I finished the game having done most but not all of the optional collection and objectives. I did not bother with the post-game bonus dungeon, which I understand is just a combat gauntlet.

Docprof's Rating:

Two Stars: Meh. The game has some merit - it probably held my attention for at least an hour or I came back to it for more than one play session. But there wasn't enough draw for me to stick with it for the long haul.

You can get it or learn more here.