Reknum Cheri Dreamland Review: Charming but More Frustrating Than Fun

by David Sanchez May 21, 2021 @ 8:27 am

Reknum Cheri Dreamland on Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on Switch

One look at Reknum Cheri Dreamland, and the game might win you over with its old-timey visual charm, pixel art, and 2D action-adventure gameplay. That’s what convinced me to check out the game. Unfortunately, not all is right with this retro-styled throwback. Though it’s undoubtedly eye-catching, it’s not all that fun to play. The end product is a game that’s massively frustrating and filled with weak mechanics and annoying level design.

Charming for a Little While

Reknum Cheri Dreamland combat.

At first, I was super into Reknum Cheri Dreamland. The game’s presentation reminded me a little bit of Cuphead, though with a sepia overlay, turning that classic cartoon dial even further. At least that’s what it seemed like.

It isn’t long before the cartoon cutscenes in Reknum Cheri Dreamland give way to a more standard pixelated art style. And you know what? The graphics on display here are pretty solid. But that sepia color palette doesn’t really do the visuals any favors. For starters, it can get a little hard to see, so the longer you play, the more the dull look makes it hard to keep focused on what’s going on. In addition, some of the darker backgrounds make it tough to successfully time jumps and move around shifting platforms.

Sadly, that’s just the start of the problems in Reknum Cheri Dreamland.

Cool Idea, Poor Execution

Reknum Cheri Dreamland Cemetery level.

Reknum Cheri Dreamland has some identity crisis issues. It’s like the game straddles the line between tough NES-styled platformer and Zelda II-like, but it doesn’t do either particularly well. This is primarily because the controls never quite feel right. Wall-jumping, which is a major part of traversing the stages, is clunky. Combat is awfully simple and sloppy. And none of the abilities and weapons you acquire along the way — like the bow and arrows — ever feel meaningful.

To make things worse, Reknum Cheri Dreamland relies exhaustively on preposterous enemy placement and blind jumps. A spotlight follows you around in some areas, with everything beyond that spotlight appearing much darker. This makes it difficult to see some platforms and ledges, rendering necessary jumps trickier than they need to be — or at least, tricky in a cheap way.

This spotlight mechanic also means you won’t see enemies coming from above. That would be fine if the game did a good job of giving you a fighting chance. After all, even brutal 2D platformers that surprise you with enemies do so in a way that feels fair. Reknum Cheri Dreamland just sort of employs cheap tactics — you’ll hit an enemy that was nowhere to be seen while trying to make a jump from one platform to another, land on some spikes as a result, and be sent back to the checkpoint. It’s really, really annoying.

Reknum Cheri Dreamland Vani gameplay.

There are a few stages where you play as your Navi-like companion. These are simple yet poorly designed stages where one hit means you need to start over. Straight-up, these levels are even less enjoyable than the standard Cheri levels.

While you’re suffering through the game, you’re treated to a repetitive jazzy soundtrack. The music is fine for a minute or two, but it gets old fairly quickly. The narration is also pretty weak, and it’s coupled with a story that just isn’t engaging one bit.

A Missed Opportunity

Reknum Cheri Dreamland 2D action-platformer.

One other thing worth noting about Reknum Cheri Dreamland is that it seemingly borrows level designs from Reknum, the previous game in the series that’s also available on Switch. Specifically, while watching some gameplay footage of that last title, the Cemetery level in Reknum Cheri Dreamland looked like it was picked right out of this game’s predecessor. I didn’t watch much, but recycling old levels comes off as lazy and a little bit cheap, especially for fans who have been looking for a fresh new adventure in the series.

In any case, Reknum Cheri Dreamland is a pretty bad game that you should steer clear from. The gameplay is poorly executed, the levels are mediocre, and the presentation, though initially endearing, loses its luster almost immediately. If you’re looking for a retro-inspired action-adventure game to scratch that Zelda II itch, play Alwa’s Legacy instead.

Score: 2 out of 10

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