Try, Try Again

HIGH Yes, the developers did think of that.

LOW A handful of jokes and references don’t land.

WTF Those poor dolphins…

It took under two minutes for Reventure to communicate to me what sort of game it is.

The campaign opens with our protagonist – dressed in a familiar-looking green tunic and hat – being sent on a mission to rescue a princess. The king advised me to arm myself before setting out, so I found a nearby grotto wherein an elder offered me a sword. I accepted and, wishing to test my new weapon out, pressed the attack button to give it a practice swing.

And then the game ended.

See, I was still standing next to the elder when I did this because I’ve been trained by years of gaming to believe that my sword would pass harmlessly through his body, given that he’s an inconsequential NPC. Instead, I chopped him down, and Reventure cut to a title card explaining that my character made off with the old man’s wallet.

Reventure has a hundred different endings, and nearly all of them turn gaming conventions on their heads. It has the façade of a generic action-platformer, and the apparent laziness of its writing – liberally pulling lines from other games and giving its characters names like “Princess” and “Dark Lord” – suckers us into treating it like one. So when the protagonist faces logical consequences for behavior that other titles would shrug off, the results are frequently hilarious.

For example, there’s an ocean off to the west, and if the player swims out and doesn’t stop, that’s an ending right there. Any other title would throw up an invisible wall or teleport the protagonist back to the beach, but in Reventure, that’s the grand conclusion to his story – the hero who was supposed to restore peace to the kingdom swam into the sunset until he presumably drowned, for no clear reason.

Things are actually closer in style and tone to The Stanley Parable than Zelda as the only combat is against harmless minions who die in one hit. The “challenge” is in hunting down the hundred endings, making Reventure an experience that rewards curiosity. It has the player thinking, “But did the developers think of this?” And the answer is pretty much always that yes, they did. After I got an ending for murdering the elder, for example, I realized that the same rule applies to any other NPC, up to and including the princess I was supposed to be saving.

The secret to making this work is how small Reventure’s world is. Developer Pixelatto exercises remarkable economy in design, giving purpose to every screen and cutting all possible fat. Reventure is a dense labyrinth of secrets and secondary routes, but it’s compact enough that players will have the entire layout memorized by the time they’re finished. They’ll come up with new theories regularly, and only ever be moments away from testing them out.

One of Pixelatto’s more clever touches is the inventory system, which transforms Reventure into something of a puzzle game. Players can collect tools like bombs or a hookshot to access different parts of the map, but each item carried decreases the height of the hero’s jump, so gaining equipment always comes at a trade-off by opening some routes while making others inaccessible. A photographic memory of Reventure’s layout will come in particularly handy, since it helps to know that I need the shovel to reach X location but can’t take path Y because it requires a higher jump.

The mental arithmetic is almost always worth it. Although Reventure occasionally falls into the trap of assuming that simply referencing a familiar phrase or image is enough to generate laughs, those instances only stand out because it does an otherwise astute job of hacking normal gaming conventions to pieces. Just seeing a Mario-esque green pipe isn’t funny, after all. The joke is when we walk inside and find that it’s full of sewage, and the game wonders aloud why we entered an underground pipe expecting to find anything else.

My parents, who grew up before videogames existed, used to watch me play and ask how my character could run so long without having to catch his breath, or how he could point his weapon at another person without raising alarm. The answer, of course, is that there would be no game otherwise, and Reventure – as it prematurely concludes every couple of minutes –reminds us of the futility of searching for a more concrete explanation than that. It’s one of the most enjoyable recent entries in a medium that it takes perverse glee in tearing apart.

Rating: 9 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Pixelatto. It is currently available on PC and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 12 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed (as in, all endings were found). There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated Teen and contains Blood, Language, Sexual Themes and Violence. Although the main character frequently dies in extremely violent ways, graphical detail is so low that it’s only ever silly rather than horrific.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: Dialogue is text-only, and sound cues play zero vital role. I played most of it with the sound off and had no issues. It’s fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: The game has only two actions – jumping and using items – and four separate control schemes are available to determine which face buttons are assigned to which task.

Mike Suskie
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