Crazy Dreamz: Best Of could be seen as an expansion or sequel to the previous entry, Crazy Dreamz MagiCats Edition. Developers Dreamz Studio are calling this the first ever crowd-developed game. One-hundred levels, deemed the best, were collected from the first game and half the game's revenue will be shared with the level creators; you can see their name, age, and where they are from (and can even tip them if you like the level) at the beginning of each stage.
It's a 2D platformer. The player is a magicat, a cat that has the ability to use magic, and the controls are pretty simple, revolving around just jumping and shooting. Each world in the game has 10 stages, and there is a boss battle after completing a certain amount of stages per world. Fans of classic 2D platformers will certainly find a bit of nostalgia and familiarity with some of the levels, but the fan-made aspect of the game results in many fresh ideas.
Crazy DreamZ: Best Of can currently be bought on Steam for $9.99.
The overarching plot of the game is that evil rats have invaded your kingdom and there are no longer fish to eat. There is an evil nemesis behind the scenes of the attack, and your are on a mission to defeat the hostile vermin. The plot doesn't get a whole lot deeper than that, but then again, most 2D platformers aren't remembered for complex story-telling anyway.
The more interesting aspect of the plot is the mini-plots; yes, with the levels being fan-made, they could choose whether or not they wanted to add dialogue to their levels. This means that some stages offer raw gameplay while others feature some unique stories. One example is an early stage that had an enemy calling you Mario and claiming to be a goomba who tells you to find three coins.
There are levels where allies will help you such as a level where you ease-drop and are caught by rats on the other side of a boulder. You and your new ally fight through the rats after being discovered. I wouldn't say that these dialogue sequences are necessary, but they do add some humor to the game. If I have one complaint though, it's that I used a controller and couldn't skip the dialogue faster on it. This becomes tedious when you need to watch it again if you die; levels that start with dialogue can be a little annoying if you keep dying and can't skip the talking.
When you first start playing Crazy Dreamz: Best Of you will immediately notice that the game is way too fast. You dash across levels, need to be really careful with jumping too far, and getting hit three times in the matter of a couple seconds is a common occurrence. Most games give you a chance to get out of harms way after getting hit. Despite the flaws, there is a lot to like about this unique 2D platformer.
Once you get the hang of the controls. which really only consist of jumping and shooting, the game does become more fun–so long as there are no bugs. Combat can be exciting, and there are a lot of unique challenges. Magicat can cling to the side of walls and climb up/down; this does mitigate the pain of many precise jumps but can also leave you awkwardly attached to obstacles you never meant to cling to. Common obstacles include bombs, blocks that can be pushed, barrels, vines that can be run across even upside down (Sonic Style), and puzzle switches. On the enemy side of things, rats with swords, magic crows, and even bears that toss sticky bombs are waiting to stop Magicat.
Your goal in each stage is to reach the house at the end. At times, it simply requires you to jump around and take out a couple foes while other stages may require a puzzle or deeper exploration. Traps like spiked walls, rows of bombs, and simply trying to beat the controls and not stick to stuff like bombs all present unique obstacles.
There are ten worlds in the game, and each world has ten stages (including a boss stage). The stages can be played in any order, and only about half of the levels in the games require completion to beat the game. Beating the boss unlocks the next world. You can always return to past worlds, and the freedom allows you to move through the game at a decent pace. It took me just a few hours to beat the game (I beat over 60 stages).
The boss fights are a bright spot. Each boss has a unique quality. One boss has you floating around the stage while the gravity is constantly reversing. Another throws sticky bombs at you and around the stage. Every boss offers a challenge but can usually be defeated within a few tries, if not first or second try.
The levels range from twenty seconds to about six minutes in length. There are no real weapon upgrades, but there are life pickups and occasional shields which offer invulnerability for a limited time. Each level has golden butterflies that can be collected: most seasoned players will assume that collecting these will give a player an upgrade, another life, or act as a currency. Even after beating the game, and collecting more than a hundred in a stage, I haven't seen them do anything. They seemingly have no purpose and are completely optional. If there is no purpose (not even for records sake), why are they even in the game?
Crazy Dreamz:best of features some really amazing hand-drawn graphics. It gives the game an endearing and cute coat of paint. The mischievous looking cat, rats in armor, and magic crows all look like they could have leapt out of a Saturday morning cartoon.
There are also a lot of little details like clouds moving in the background or golden statues that look like they would have fit in Ancient Greece. There are lighting effects (such as from the moon) and weather, but I would have liked to see more variance in the environments. It would have been neat to see themed worlds such as snow, volcano, forest etc. Instead, many of the levels look similar. This felt like a lost opportunity that could have given the game a more grandiose and cohesive feeling.
The graphics still hold onto their charm throughout the game, and I enjoyed the simplistic yet artful style. It almost reminded me of the old Sonic games where the bright colors popped out more than the fine details of a series like Donkey Kong Country.
The music in the game is decent. It's very playful, but to be honest, I don't remember most of it. The piano ballad during the seventh and eight world was enjoyable and the over-world music is catchy, but most of it blended in. This isn't to say that it takes anything away from the game; it doesn't. Again, I just felt like themed levels could have had a distinct soundtrack that would have etched them in players memories long after they stopped playing.
There is almost no continuity in the level design. This could be seen as negative since a great 2D platformer usually holds onto successful elements and builds on them throughout the game. Crazy Dreamz: Best Of is a complete roller coaster. There are levels that literally take about 20 seconds to beat right next to levels that offer semi-complex puzzles. Because the levels have different developers (some developers contributed many levels) there isn't a natural difficulty scale or gameplay progression. The tenth world took me half as long to beat as did the ninth world.
My other complaint is that some of the level design was very obviously amateur. Some of the levels didn't even utilize entire portions of the stage while others created seemingly linear points that lead to automatic death. There were buggy moments where the cat was twitching through balls or gaps, and awkward controls made some of the obstacles just plain obnoxious to deal with (try sliding down VERY narrow vines with a pit at the bottom, only your controls keep reversing both horizontally and vertically while you need to jump at the perfect position to not die).
On the flip side of things, there is a positive to the inconsistency; you don't need to play every level to finish a world, so if a level is too tough or annoying (buggy) to beat, just quit and try a different level. I remember a level that required me to play back a piano scale, and too frustrated at figuring out the right notes, I just quit and merrily moved onto another stage.
The gameplay is simple, and the inconsistent levels also keep the game fresh. I was pleasantly surprised at the level design that people were able to create. There were some almost objectively bad levels (one where I literally had to sit for about a minute and a half and wait for bombs to be shot toward a rock), but I was never bored of the game.
If you enjoy combat and puzzles, this game has plenty of both, just don't expect the levels to distribute them in even doses.
If nothing else, Crazy Dreamz: Best Of deserves credit for the crowd-developed idea. Half of the revenue going to the level designers and the ability to personally tip them is really cool. Of course, the massive amount of stage-designers create many of the problems present in the game. There are bugs, some levels that are simply not fun or barely make sense, and there is no sense of continuity or progression throughout the game.
The movement was too fast, and the bugs/controls can be very frustrating. However, the boss fights are really fun, and I still enjoyed many of the levels. The ability to skip levels and jump around was welcoming and I had fun throughout the game because I never quite knew what the levels would throw at me next. Hopefully the bugs will be fixed; you need the internet to play Crazy Dreams: Best Of, and the levels are supposedly being improved based on feedback.
This isn't the next Mario or Sonic by any means, but there is easily enough content to warrant a $9.99 purchase if you are a big fan of 2D platformers. If this isn't a go to genre for you, maybe try something else. There is ultimately more good than bad here, and the ingenuity and lighthearted nature of this adventure outweigh the myriad small issues.
|+ Some really unique levels||– Awkward controls and bugs|
|+ Crowd-Developed||– Movement is way too fast|
|+ Boss fights||– Some really strange/amateur level design|