Initially released in 2018, Reverie is a 16-bit, indie and action-adventure title developed and published by Rainbite. To improve the experience, Reverie: Sweet As Edition released on Nintendo Switch in 2019 before coming to Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5 now. While I love the hyperrealism that games like Red Dead Redemption II and Ghost of Tsushima among others achieve, it’s nice to sometimes play something simpler with a greater emphasis on escapism. Alas, Reverie: Sweet As Edition became available on PS5 and immediately grabbed my attention. So, let’s see if my attention was correctly directed towards a title that is out of my comfort zone.
Reverie introduces the player to its narrative via the beautiful opening cinematics. The lore of Reverie’s world (Toromi Island) is swiftly established. Following this, main character Tai coincidentally arrives by boat to Toromi Island on a visit to his grandparents.
Soon enough, peace is disrupted as Tai embarks on his grand adventure to ensure order. Before long, Tai is whisked away into a dungeon (the first of six), and the fun really starts here! Only at the climax of each dungeon is the story progressed. Otherwise, Reverie’s story plays second-fiddle to dungeon exploration. NPCs occasionally play a role in story progression but are insignificant overall, merely populating Toromi Island. Is the narrative a bit daft? Yes, but importantly it provides the base structure and context of Reverie’s world and villains.
Dungeons are the heart of Reverie: Sweet As Edition. Structurally, they follow an indistinguishable pattern, but it’s one that works. Venturing through each dungeon, players solve a variety of puzzles throughout their many rooms, sometimes adding items to their collection. Some of these items are added to an item wheel permanently, whereas others are keys for opening doors. Finally, the player finds the boss key, battles and defeats the boss, increases their health bar by one point and encounters a cutscene. Speaking of which, I enjoyed every boss battle in Reverie. No cliché’s involving a weak spot: just hit the enemy until they go down while avoiding their several types of attacks.
Immediate parallels in formula can be drawn to The Legend of Zelda, particularly the iterations A Link to the Past and Link’s Awakening. However, while the beats as listed above are practically identical, everything in-between offers great diversity. Each dungeon is packed with satisfying puzzles to solve and occasionally innovative items to utilise, providing an engaging challenge throughout. Backtracking isn’t too much of a chore, and coloured portals are an appreciated addition too.
Drawing comparisons to TLoZ’s 16-bit titles yet again, some items are essentially reskinned versions of previously established items. While I’m not entirely sure if TLoZ created these specific items and innovations, Reverie’s Cricket Bat and Dart Gun are more-or-less the Sword and Bow, respectfully, as an example, with similar range and animations. However, this is completely understandable given the retro 90s aesthetic that Reverie succeeds in achieving. In addition, creativity is absolutely present in some of Reverie’s items! The best example of this is a bizarre ‘Pet Rock’. Peculiar at its core, Pet Rock is multi-faceted with its ability to hold down pressure plates alongside ricocheting off walls and enemies, dealing damage.
I spent roughly six hours with Reverie; about 80% of my time was focused on exploring dungeons. While, as I mentioned, this is due to dungeons being the meat of the game, the rest of the world feels miniscule, with the primary goal of getting the player from point A to B and a secondary goal of exploration. I’m glad in the sense that more effort has been put into dungeon design, but I still feel exploring Tomori Island to be slightly uninspired. Yes, you can collect a range of vibrant feathers through exploration. However, unless you are a completionist, there is little to no reason for doing so. In truth, there is little to explore away from the linear paths, although occasionally I enjoyed exploring away from these paths.
For what it’s worth, the world is charming for a 16-bit game. Clear visual distinctions between environments and dungeons offer intriguing world-building, whereas sprites – more notably in Reverie: Sweet As Edition – are impressive when considering the aesthetic limitations. Tai – while strongly resembling Ness from EarthBound, has received an improved sprite from the original game. There’s nothing visually groundbreaking, but at the same time, no section of Reverie is an eyesore.
Music and general enemy types are two of Reverie’s weaker elements (this is not to say they’re poor). Some became repetitive, especially when exploring lengthy dungeons and when the track loop is relatively short. Thus, repetition. Enemy variety is alike in its repetition issue. Dungeon-specific enemies are often great in the challenge they provide, requiring the player to utilise their full wheel of items. Alternatively, the likes of bees and rats are far too common in both the overworld and every, single dungeon. More dungeon-specific enemies appearing or at least reskins would’ve addressed this, albeit minor, issue.
Controls are, for the most part, pretty solid in Reverie. Similar to music and enemy types however, I encountered the occasional issue. At several points, I found controls to be clunky. Hit boxes could become frustrating, opening yourself up to taking a hit much of the time when simply melee-attacking an enemy. Required movements during several sections of the game are too specific, especially when going through puzzles involving lasers. The slightest movement on your analog stick can be detrimental, feeling too sensitive due to movement mechanics.
Where Do I Stand with Reverie?
Reverie: Sweet As Edition is, all-in-all, a sweet package. Each of the six dungeons offers their own intriguing trials and tribulations packed with wonderful utilisation of items, satisfying puzzles to solve and intense boss battles. Meanwhile, Reverie is an impressive-looking 16-bit title, capturing aesthetics effectively with vibrancy (or dreariness when necessary). While music, enemy range and movement mechanics could be a cut above, their flaws are inoffensive, for the most part, and hardly get in the way of what is a satisfying experience.
Publisher: Rainbite, East Asiasoft Limited
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One
Release Date: 28th June 2023 (PlayStation/Xbox), 7th February 2019 (Nintendo Switch/PS Vita)
Gaming Respawn’s copy of Reverie: Sweet As Edition was provided by the publisher.