Reverie Revealed: Interview with the devs behind the latest PLAY Exclusive!
Reverie’s Limited Edition physical release is coming soon so we sat down to ask the developers over at New Zealand studio Rainbite some questions about their latest title! There’s a lot to learn about this action adventure game for the Vita and PlayStation 4, so we tried to find out all about the product behind Reverie and the secrets behind its sun & spirit soaked island setting.
What is Reverie? How did the name come about?
First, what’s behind the name Reverie? “Initially we wanted to have a name that was short and easy to remember,” says the game’s lead programmer, Jared. “We were inspired by other games that used a single word that left you thinking a bit more like Limbo or Inside by Playdead,” he explains. However, not all names stuck. “We thought of some names that were more straightforward, one of the earlier ones being The Summer Spirit“, he continues. “The name made sense but didn’t leave much to the imagination. We ended on Reverie as we were trying to find a word that evokes that feeling as you play from the child’s perspective of Tai. Reverie means ‘a state of being pleasantly lost in one’s thoughts; a daydream.’ and we feel like we delivered on that feeling.”
But the name might not explain what kind of game Reverie is. In Reverie, players step into the shoes of a kid named Tai as he explores Toromi Island in search of adventure and a set of mysterious fishing hooks. Each of these hooks are hidden away in a dungeon where Tai must use his tools and his noggin to solve puzzles and fight big bosses. The format is very Zelda, but Tai’s arsenal of items are quite different to Link’s classic items like bombs and magic.
Pet rocks & pizza: a youthful approach to in-game items
“We really wanted Tai’s arsenal of weapons to be distinctly childlike,” says Jared. “We didn’t want him to acquire any real weapons.” Rather than a sword, Tai’s weapon of choice is a cricket bat. Sure, it’s still a brutal pick for beating up the local wildlife, but one that’s a lot more appropriate for a kid to carry!
As he explores the island, Tai picks up more kid-friendly items like a shovel and ‘Heelys’ shoes. They’re all tools a child would have, but the adventure never feels limited because of this. “We are happy with how it turned out as we could still achieve all the mechanics that we wanted,” says Jared. He also noted that the game’s breakout star is Stephen the pet rock: “He’s the last item we thought of but definitely one of the more complex ones.” Stephen is just an ordinary rock with googly eyes, but he’s used in a number of ways for some of Reverie’s more creative puzzles.
Even the health pickups reflect a childlike view of the world; Tai recovers health not by finding hearts, but by scoffing pizza. “We decided on using snack food as our health pickups overall as kids love unhealthy snacks,” claims Jared. “I think we just really like pizza and so did kids so we thought it made sense. I mean it doesn’t really make sense obviously, but we wanted something that was perishable for an instant health pickup and packaged food for the health restores in Tai’s inventory.” Indeed, pizza isn’t exactly healthy, nor is it normally found in bushes, but it seems appropriate for the setting and tasty too!
Drawing inspiration: a link to gaming past
The look and feel of Reverie should be instantly familiar if you grew up playing the same games as the folks at Rainbite. “The main gameplay structure is based around 2D Zelda games and the visual style is inspired mostly by Earthbound and Pokemon,” explains Jared. Another less popular Nintendo game that inspired the team was the quirky StarTropics for the NES. For those still waiting on that third StarTropics title, it’s easy to see the inspiration in the similar gameplay style and setting (right down to its yo-yo wielding hero). However, the team says these iconic games were a source of inspiration, not something to merely imitate. “We tried to not specifically look at any other games especially for dungeon design and puzzles as we didn’t want to copy anything exactly,” says Jared. “Our previous experience with these games definitely helped to understand how to introduce and design our mechanics though.”
The stuff of legends: a bit of Māori magic
Reverie was also inspired by the team’s experience growing up in New Zealand. As Jared explains, “All three of us at Rainbite were born and raised in New Zealand and throughout our schooling life we were taught about the Maori myths and language.” This influence can be seen throughout Reverie’s story, as well as the showdowns with supernatural creatures.
In particular, Tai’s quest is based heavily on the Maori legend of Maui and the Giant Fish. It’s a tale that should sound familiar if you’ve seen a certain recent Disney film. “We had already planned to use this story and put our own spin on it before the movie Moana was announced, but I think it helped the general public to have something they understood about Maori culture,” says Jared. Hopefully Reverie will help to spread awareness of New Zealand’s native myths and culture too!
Bringing the island to gamers: a Kiwi touch
Other parts of Reverie also reflect the developers’ New Zealand background. Since the island is part of New Zealand, it’s filled with familiar local wildlife like kiwis. However, the team was careful not to let Tai harm any native critters. As Jared explains: “Our plan was to start with using only pests in New Zealand as we didn’t want the player killing any native, endangered animals.” However, the enemies aren’t limited to just familiar animals, Jared continues: “We then progressed to more supernatural enemies that aren’t necessarily inspired by legends but show the extent of Tai’s imagination.”
Another bit of interaction with New Zealand’s native animals comes in the form of feather collecting. Heart pieces? Who needs ‘em? Reverie has an album to fill with feathers from different birds, which will reveal some information about each species. “Daniel, our artist, is really into birds so it was his idea to have the feather collecting as the main collectable,” explains Jared. “New Zealand is fairly well known for its native birds as well, so it fit the world we were making nicely.”
The hunt for the wild references
Reverie has many references not just traditional Maori culture, but modern New Zealand pop culture as well. “We mainly filled the world with these gags as it’s what we have that is unique to any other games made in the rest of the world and makes Reverie stand out,” says Jared. “Not everyone will get them, but the people who do definitely appreciate them.”
There are definitely a lot of deep cuts in Reverie as the developers threw in whatever they found funny. Even New Zealand’s rugby team, the All Blacks make a cameo appearance. “In Reverie we show the true nature of the genetically engineered superteam we have in our secret island lab!” explains Jared. “We just thought it would be fun to make up a little backstory us to how we have so many good rugby players for such a small country.”
A Vita-l Release
Of course, Reverie also stands out as a game developed first and foremost for the PlayStation Vita. When asked why the team chose to support Sony’s handheld, Jared explained: “We wanted to create any game for the Vita once we had our university degrees as we loved the console and wanted to make sure we made something for it before it completely died out.” Planning for Reverie started when the Rainbite team were in their last year of university. “Since we planned to work on the Vita from the start it was easy to keep the game in scope for the console and to make sure it would run well on it,” Jared said.
The Rainbite trio did face some problems in development, but they learned from their experience. “There were the pretty standard challenges with making any game: bugs that seem impossible to fix and don’t have any reason to be there, to arguing over the colour for the grass,” Jared reminisced. “The development went surprisingly smoothly overall though which was in most part to our early planning, strict scope and the everyone in the team having a clear understanding of what the game should be. It also helped that this wasn’t our first game that we have made. The more games you make the more things you get right and there is always more to learn.” Even the process of developing for the Vita seemed to go smoothly. “We had our worries as people had said in the past the Unity games don’t run well on Vita but we think we did a good job”, he explained.
As for the initial reception to Reverie, the game has been met with positive reviews. “The reception has been great so far – many people have tweeted and messaged us saying how much they enjoyed the game,” says Jared. “We put so much effort into Reverie to make it really fun and to show the culture of New Zealand.”
With its charming pixel art and sense of humor, It’s easy to see how Reverie has already struck a chord with many gamers for its charming pixel art. If you’re looking a cute childhood adventure and a return to the retro roots of the genre, why not embark on this nostalgic journey? And if you’re after a physical copy to add to your collection, be sure to check out PLAY Exclusive release of Reverie when it goes on sale for the PlayStation 4 and Vita this month!