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Cavern of Dreams

Developer: Bynine Studio

Publisher: Super Rare Games

  • Price: $12.99
  • Release Date: Feb 29, 2024
  • Number of Players: 1
  • Last on Sale: -
  • Lowest Historic Price: -
  • ESRB Rating: E [Everyone]
  • Watch this review on YouTube
    A love letter to the likes of Mario 64 and that early 3D generation, but it has some warts of that time as well

    Games with a retro vibe are a double-edged sword depending on which era they’re trying to emulate. While the 16-bit era seems to be a bit of a sweet spot for both aesthetics and gameplay that can hold up well even in modern times, choosing the generation right before or after it absolutely carries some risk. In the case of Cavern of Dreams, the wayback machine has been set to the dawn of the 3D gaming era, a time of jagged polygons, low-quality textures, and generally fiddly cameras. While there’s absolutely a lot of love for that era on display here, there are unfortunately some of its issues as well.

    Starting with the positives, while all aspects of the game aren’t the same, visually and in terms of the overall design of things it reminds me most of Banjo-Kazooie. Everything is quite colorful, there’s a certain sense of whimsy to things, and it’s generally a very good vibes experience. What’s surprising is that the degree of challenge in places, even early on, feels more modern and a bit higher than expected when it comes to puzzles. You’ll need to be aware of audio cues, subtle visual hints, and sometimes be willing to pan the camera around at times to find hidden areas or the various collectables you’re tasked to find. 

    Moving to the negatives, as you’d expect for a game that chose to emulate this pretty specific era of gaming there’s a fair amount of jankiness all around. While the overall look is absolutely authentic to that generation, there’s no getting around the fact that sometimes it can be hard on the eyes and the lack of more granular detail can sometimes be confusing. In the same general vein, the camera isn’t always helpful or cooperative, which is again tied to memories I’d rather have forgotten. What may be the most aggravating though is that the control scheme and general feel of play just isn’t as smooth and refined as the likes of Nintendo or Rare’s efforts from that era, and though I appreciate the stage design on a general level, there are absolutely some areas that aren’t as strong as others.

    Put it all together and you’ve got a mixed bag, but one that should absolutely have an audience. If you’re someone who thoroughly loves the games of the early 90s and have nostalgia for their look and feel, Cavern of Dreams should pretty well feel like a contemporary of that age, even if not a flawless one. It has the look, generally emulates the feel, and is designed better than many of the popular games of that era, just not the best ones. There is a terrific sensibility to the experience that’s a positive, but it may be a few steps too far back for people who aren’t enamored with that generation.

    Justin Nation, Score:
    Good [7.1]

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