Cavern of Dreams is a 3D platformer by Bynine Studio, in which you play as Finn, a dragon rescuing the eggs of his siblings from an evil bat.
Finn’s moveset is small. You can roll by holding the trigger to gain speed, jump, attack the ground to do a longer jump, and jump immediately after touching the ground to jump higher. Although you’ll unlock new abilities as you collect more eggs, the platforming stays simple and precise, and the bulk of the game is spent using your limited abilities to solve puzzles.
Distant eggs generally involve hybrid puzzle-solving and platforming. You explore to find a way up, but there’s something stopping you, and you have to solve a minor puzzle to remove the obstacle. In general, these are easy, but satisfying, because they require understanding your platforming abilities to overcome your low jump height, and using the nearby interactable parts of the level. Maybe you need to grow a tree so you have something to jump onto, or maybe you just need to climb up to a different platform and glide over, once you unlock that ability.
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Puzzles, on the other hand, often involve finding things that connect in different areas of the level. For example, a switch for a locked door is found by following a riddle’s clue to another area of the level. A few puzzles are incredibly obscure, but the majority of them are relatively enjoyable, testing your sense of exploration, and occasionally your ability to understand how different parts of the level connect.
There’s no combat in Cavern of Dreams, but this isn’t necessarily in the game’s favour. While many platformers have boring combat, it makes you pay attention in between the jumping challenges. When looking for your next puzzle to solve in Cavern of Dreams, there’s nothing to do but run.
To be fair, Finn’s roll can be a lot of fun to use. Rolling down a hill, then taking a big jump with the momentum you gained is satisfying on its own. That said, going up slopes is painfully slow, and Finn’s moveset is small, leaving you with little to mess around with other than rolling.
The problem is that the platforming is overly punishing. There’s no health system to speak of, so pits will instantly kill you, and other hazards bounce you unpredictably backwards, often into a pit. When you die, you’re sent to the last door you exited, which can be all the way at the beginning of a level. Because the unlockable buttslam is the only way to gain height, you’re best off halting all momentum and carefully taking each jump. The game has a bunch of narrow platforms above pits where you can lose minutes of progress, and when levels lean into that, it can be more tiresome than fun. The joyful elements of the platforming aren’t encouraged, and instead the game feels more like a cautious puzzle platformer.
Cavern of Dreams is heavily inspired by Nintendo 64 platformers, with a blur filter, low poly models, and simple, charming music. I definitely had fun for the game’s 5 hours, despite the last level being pretty annoying. But I found myself wishing the movement was faster and more frantic, and that just isn’t what this game is. If you prefer your platformers with a focus on the joy of movement, this isn’t for you. But if you like 3D puzzle platformers or classic N64 games like Rocket: Robot on Wheels, this is worth considering, because taken on its own terms, it’s a charming little adventure.