I‘ve always had a soft spot in my heart for do it yourself gaming…. starting with Mario Paint on the Super Nintendo, blossoming into a borderline obsession with RPG Maker on the PlayStation One, and culminating in the masterpiece that was Mario Maker on the Wii U. However, the thing I love about this type of game is the ability to really flex my creative muscle by crafting fun and unique experiences that I can then share with my friends. Crazy Dreamz: Best, then, represent the part of user-generated content that I am not as crazy about: other people’s levels. Still, I am a fan of platformers, and well crafted levels are well-crafted levels. So, is Crazy Dreamz: Best of a platformer worth your time, or is this experience about as far from purrfect as you can get?
As mentioned above, Crazy Dreamz: Best of is a collection of platforming levels. As this is the case, a strong central narrative was never in the plans. The minimal story merely provides a reasoning for the colorful backdrop of the game. You play as MagiCat, an anthropomorphic feline with a magic staff that must run, jump, and shoot his way through the land while battling the evil rat army. I’m not sure what, exactly, the rat army was doing….something about stealing magic and being general ne’er-do-wells, but, to be honest, you don’t really need much more in the way of story in 2D platformers. Mario has been rescuing Peach for quite a few years now, after all.
Crazy Dreamz: Best of is a very simple game to play. It is so simple, in fact, that it could be played with no sacrifices using an NES pad. All you need are two buttons, jump and shoot, and an analog stick for movement. Well, that is all I needed as I played this game using an Xbox One controller on my PC, but keyboard controls are also obviously possible. Besides running and gunning, players can also climb up and down and jump off of walls. A word of warning, though: your jump height is fixed when leaping off of walls. I would have appreciated more control over my jumps, and the fact that my jump was the same no matter how hard or lightly I tapped the button always felt off to me. This was an issue on the ground as well to a degree. Now, MagiCat controls well enough to get through any stage. The objective of each level is to make it to the “house” at the end and I never felt like his movement was a detriment to reaching that goal. My issue is that platformers are so much about feel… and this game never felt great.
That’s not to say I didn’t have fun. The 100 levels are split up into ten worlds, and each world has a boss fight. The boss fights are never hard, but they do help in breaking up the monotony. The stages themselves have a variety of gimmicks, but the actual tools are limited. There are a small number of enemy types, and a few cool items like bombs, gravity reversing crystals, and bouncing platforms to interact with. Still, you can only see these same elements remixed so many times before it gets repetitive. That is why the stages that try to do something different, a music puzzle or an escort quest, for example, really stand out.
This is a colorful experience, and MagiCat is a really cute protagonist. He gets even cuter as you complete worlds and acquire bonus gear to customize his appearance. The backgrounds are somewhat generic but fitting for the world, and the enemy designs have plenty of personality. The actual animation is a bit rough and the entire experience reminds me a bit of a flash game from the early 2000’s. The bigger issue though, is how repetitive everything is. You only have a handful of stage backgrounds, and each one is tied to a particular piece of music. This means you will be hearing AND seeing the same thing, over and over again. The music itself is serviceable. It works well in the confines of the game but I don’t see myself humming any of these tunes anytime soon.
Before I give the final verdict there is something else worth mentioning. 50% of the proceeds of this game go to the amatuer level designers whose stages made it into this package. That is very cool and I love to see companies give back to their community. There is even an option to tip a level creator after completing their work, which is really not the sort of thing I would have expected.
Crazy Dreamz: Best is a decent platformer. The controls are not perfect and the entire experience struggles to stay fresh, but it’s still a nice collection of stages for the asking price of $10.