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Cavern of Dreams Review

Introduction

Cavern of Dreams is a 3-D platformer developed by Bynine Studio and published by Super Rare Originals in a visual style and spirit of the N64 3-D platformer "collectathon" games of the late 90s. In this game, you play as a small dragon named Flynn who is trying to rescue his siblings from a bat named Luna. Throughout the game, you will find eggs of your siblings, get new abilities, solve puzzles, and help some strangers on the way.

The Story

Immediately upon starting up a new file, you will fall into the Cavern of Dreams and meet a mysterious figure named Sage who mentions that they saw an egg. Upon collecting the egg, you are given the ability to hit things with your tail to open up a new area. Finding eggs will let you get more abilities throughout the game to make getting your siblings back easier. It's important to note that with the exception of the tail attack, you do not need any other abilities to get all of your siblings back. These extra abilities are completely optional to get, although your jump height is pretty abysmal, so these extra abilities certainly come in handy for traversing the game.

Eventually you will run into Luna, a bat and the game's antagonist who stole your siblings. Luna will mess things up on your adventure to get your siblings back.

Along with eggs, you can find mushrooms in every location and special cards. The mushrooms are used to create fast travel points and the special cards unlock an encyclopedia log on different entities found throughout the game that adds some nice flavor text to enemies and friends you meet along the way.

There are 4 general "worlds" of this game inside of the larger Cave of Dreams. Like Donkey Kong 64, you will traverse through the overworld until you find the enterence to one of these worlds that exists seperately from the overworld. Unlike Donkey Kong 64 though, these worlds don't feel completely seperate from the overworld, in that you will sometimes enter from one world to another through a door, cave, or other loading zone where you might need to hit a button on the other side of a gate or door that prevents you from traveling between these worlds too freely right away. You can also take items from one world to another, which is required to solve a few puzzles. Even though this game has seperate worlds and loading zones, the entire game feels decently seamless in a way I don't remember any of the late 90s 3-D platformers feeling.

There is no health in this game, although you can die, like if you fall into a pit or some lava. When you die, you start back at the last enterence you used. Getting hit in this game will send you flying in a direction, unable to move or use any abilities for a bit while you are sent in that direction. While it's sometimes frustrating having to get back to where you were in the room after dying, the lack of health is a welcome addition in my opinion.

Some puzzles felt a little cryptic in order to get 100% and I'm surprised I figured some of these puzzles out at all. You are generally given all of the information you need, but it's a matter of figuring out what some details in a world or an NPC is trying to tell you. There was one particular egg though which I needed to look up the solution for, which I never was able to find the needed information for in-game. Thankfully you do not need 100% to beat this game. I just wish I would have been able to get everything without needing to resort to a guide at one point.

As you collect eggs, the area where Sage is will have eggs in nests. Those eggs will give you hints to where uncollected eggs are. While some hints aren't quite obvious, it is nice that the game tells you where every collectable of one collectable category are. The game doesn't tell you where uncollected encyclopedia cards or uncollected mushrooms are though.

My Thoughts

This game absolutely oozes with charm. The gameplay and the visuals scratch a nostalgic itch I have had for a while. I started this game expecting something like Banjo Kazooie or Donkey Kong 64, a 3-D platformer collectathon that has distinct levels that really don't interact at all with each other. I am pleasantly surprised at being wrong about that expectation. This game is less linear and less compartmentalized than I had expected it to be. Rather than emulating Banjo Kazooie or DK 64, this game stands confidently on its own. I absolutely recommend folks pick this game up.

At about 5-6 hours of playtime to get 100%, this game was in the "Goldylocks zone" in terms of gameplay time for me. Short enough that I didn't have to stress out about finding time to play through the entire game and long enough that I was able to get a lot of value out of the game. I decided to play through the game a second time with 100% to get the screenshots for this review and it still took me about 2 hours even with knowing where basically everything was.

This game is available on the Nintendo Switch and on PC via Steam for a base price of $12.99USD.


Blanket Fort Webring

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