Reverie is a 2D, open-world, action/adventure game set on a small, fictional island off the coast of New Zealand in the early 2000’s. Explore the world through the perspective of Tai, a young boy unravelling a story inspired by Maori legends.
Too much dismay from others, I have stated several times that the 2D Zelda games are my favourites. Reverie, from small New Zealand-based studio Rainbite, have developed a Vita title that fills that 2D Zelda itch for me. You’ll be whacking away to take out bats, swinging around solving dungeon puzzles and taking down bosses all the while discovering a wider world map draped in New Zealand references and culture.
Reverie is set in the early 2000’s on a fictional island off the coast of New Zealand. As a young boy, Tai, you arrive via boat to stay with your Grandparents for a holiday. On the boat-ride over your Mum explains the legend of Maui, the demigod of Polynesian mythology who -- with a magical fish hook -- fished up the Northern Island after his brothers attempted to leave him behind when they went fishing. As an Australian, I hadn’t heard this legend at all and found it an interesting tale of brothers, myth, and gods [Editor's note: Dylan has not seen Disney's Moana. For shame].
Unfortunately, as Reverie unfolds, it doesn’t do much to build on any entry level interest you may have in the legends of New Zealand. Once you arrive at your Grandparents place you are sent through a tutorial dungeon in the basement and then released to the wider map to attempt to quell the brothers' spirits still trapped in the land and causing earthquakes and more trouble. I was hoping for some optional reading, or for a bigger tie-in to the lore (which I have since Googled) but alas, none. The adventure genre isn’t known for its stories -- even the Zelda series has always been light -- but I was disappointed nonetheless.
The charm and the character of the world and the island you make your way around is unique. You start in a home village and will first explore a basic forest area with simple enemies before heading further into the game and delving into beach sections with centipedes and turtles, followed by haunted graveyards and ghoulies. All areas holding funny easter eggs and jokes that tie-in nicely to the games' PlayStation trophy set. The NPC’s are all worth talking to, just so you can hear their funny dialogue and in-jokes. Creatures also inhabit the island that you can either just ignore or take down with your trusty weapon -- a cricket bat! From the moment you reach the first boss you know you're in for a whimsical adventure (no spoilers, but I did snort chuckle.)
Although I loved the island and the design, I kept getting annoyed at the apparent time-warp you are stuck in on the island. After completing a dungeon you are transported back to your bed as, presumably, a day has passed and yet every single NPC will be saying the exact same dialogue. I kept coming back to my house because my Grandfather asked me to check in, and for a while, I had hoped he would continue the Māori story, but after I completed the second dungeon I realised he wasn’t going to say anything new. It’s a little detail but makes a big deal to the overall feel of the world.
The dungeons are where Reverie shines. Any previous Zelda references and feelings come to fruition when you step into a dungeon. You have warp pads, bats, puzzles, new equipment to find, maps and, of course, bosses. Working your way through the dungeons the difficulty of puzzles raises from simple block configuration puzzles I learnt to solve playing Pokemon Silver, to a dungeon where you can move its door configurations. The latter of course is a bit confusing, but none of the puzzles kept me stumped for too long as Reverie hits the right difficulty balance before reaching annoying. The bosses themselves aren’t too difficult as I beat each on my first try, but the enemy design was always interesting and I had fun taking them down.
Rainbite chose to start the dungeons fairly simple and paint-by-numbers, but they prove they have the ability to design some interesting and more challenging dungeons with the last two, it's just a pity all of the dungeons weren't as interesting. There is a bonus dungeon unlocked by completing the game which I was hoping would be the most complicated and unique of the game, but it is nothing more than a long challenge map of the games enemies. It was a slog to finish and an odd choice for a bonus dungeon especially considering Reverie's combat is bare bones for the genre. Roll. Attack. You have two options and not enough variation in weapons to make any sort of combat challenge particuarlly strong.
I encountered an annoying bug where I got stuck in a door in the final dungeon that left me having no choice but to quit to the main menu and thank the autosave system. Lasers were also the cause of several cheap deaths where I got stuck between two of them by accident several times which was the most annoyed I got all game.
I couldn’t put Reverie down once I picked it up. The charm of the New Zealand setting and the pull of wanting to just start the next dungeon… and then complete the dungeon had me playing for hours on end until the credits rolled. My disappointments in the wasted opportunity with the story aside, Reverie is easily a Vita must buy, especially if you’re a fan of the genre like I am.