Adventuring across quirky lands is nothing new to Zelda clones, but that experience contains a bit more charm when there’s actual culture involved; it’s fun to know who the other weirdos in this world are from the comfort of home. Case in point: Rainbite’s Reverie: Sweet As Edition uses the established genre as a vehicle to convey their love of New Zealand, sprinkling the island setting with just enough traditional mythology and oddball humor to keep the solid-but-typical dungeon puzzling from getting stale. It’s a breezy trip that could have used a bit more local flavor — and less clunky combat — but ultimately, Reverie is a mostly pleasant diversion with a wholesome Kiwi appeal.
It’s a New Zealand Thing
The opening hour calls to mind the absurdity of setups from Earthbound and Link’s Awakening, despite the proceedings never approaching those levels of brilliance. Still, when a young lad named Tai first arrives at a peculiar town on the fictional island of Toromi, only to find that his vacation visit to his grandparents’ home has turned into a quest to free the spirit of an ancient Maori legend — something apparently achieved by clubbing docile rodents and angry washing machines with a cricket bat — then Reverie is off to a good start.
Villagers showcase kooky personality with dialogue proud of its idioms, exhibiting a supremely welcoming vibe even when running around to avoid sunburn or challenging someone to beat the high score in an arcade game. Shops contain references to New Zealand snacks, collecting bird feathers is apparently a thing, and there’s even a reference to Crocodile Dundee (yes, I know that’s Australian, but it’s there). This initial location isn’t large, but it makes a pleasant impression, and soon Tai is off and running.
Dungeon Diving Down Under
The first dungeon adheres to this tone quite nicely, poking fun at the genre a bit by turning the mundane into the fantastic, but after setting out into other parts of the island, that feeling does lessen. There are still scattered residents to interact with, but the playful sense of the bizarre gives way to more traditional quest requests, with only the occasional talking bird really offering that off-kilter fix. This is only a small shame, but it’s hard not to imagine a more realized Toromi somewhere along the lines of Koholint or Golf Story‘s various country clubs.
Still, that front-loaded personality helps cover for the ease of the early dungeons. Anyone familiar with this genre will surely breeze through puzzles that simply require defeating all the enemies in a room to acquire a key, or flipping a switch to open a door. They’re not boring per se (mostly because of that initial charm), but it’s not hard to imagine certain players getting halfway through the game before they’ve even realized it. However, as the more character-related charms start to thin, the dungeons begin to up their game.
Rainbite has included secondary items that Zelda fans will immediately understand, like a slingshot and a yoyo, but later dungeons implement these devices in devious ways that will surely leave even seasoned vets momentarily scratching their heads on occasion. Throw in a couple of clever ideas like a pet rock (you’ll find out), and the second half of Reverie finds more success in stumping, making this portion of the game satisfying for different reasons.
This includes boss fights. While these gargantuan beasts never get more inventive in design than the first, they become increasingly more fun to figure out, as recognizing patterns becomes more important, as well as having a thorough understanding of one’s abilities. That’s not to say they will cause death and frustration — Reverie isn’t that kind of game — but they force players to pay a bit closer attention than bat swingers might otherwise have done.
A Quick, Fun Romp
However, combat is also perhaps the game’s weakest element. Reverie at times has a very old-school feel, and unfortunately, that extends to clunky movement that produces more accidental damage than truly earned hits. Part of the problem is the length of the cricket bat itself, which seems more like The Adventure of Link‘s butter knife than a formidable weapon. Tai has to get very close to enemies in order to attack them, but unpredictable movements and sluggish reaction times often mean trading one blow for another. This doesn’t end up critically mattering from a health perspective, as plenty of life-restoring pizza slices are scattered about the countryside, but with enemies regenerating as soon as Tai has left the screen, a large portion of playing time is spent performing actions that don’t feel great.
A somewhat unwieldy item swapping process is also a bit tedious; this is a feature of Link’s Awakening that isn’t worth emulating when there are plenty of buttons available to modern gamers, and makes certain dungeon puzzles a bit more of a slog than they had to be.
Regardless, any annoyances are short-lived. It shouldn’t take most gamers more than 5-6 hours to complete Reverie: Sweet As Edition, and their time should be pleasantly spent. Those craving a bit more will find an extra challenge that opens after completing the main campaign, and there is a reward for collecting each of the variety of bird feathers that are strewn about the island (a notebook given by your grandmother helps keep track), but beyond that Reverie is a pretty quick trip — a wholesome weekend getaway that gives curious players a small peek into New Zealand culture, but seems anxious for them not to overstay their welcome.
Come for the rugby jokes, stay for the puzzles.