40 Winks is a platformer game developed by Eurocom for the PlayStation. The game was also developed for the Nintendo 64 but was cancelled at the last minute, only releasing in 2018, which is 19 years after its original release. Still, I commend the effort behind releasing ports to old games, especially for “outdated” consoles, and would love to see more!
The game revolves around a boy and a girl, Ruff and Tumble, stopping a man called Nitekap from turning dreams into nightmares by rescuing the 40 winks he kidnapped and repeatedly stopping his sidekick, Threadbear. Assisting you in the game with the occasional tip is a mysterious alarm clock called Wakey Wakey, who I find to have been underutilized as a character in general, instead being merely a tip-giver.
The visuals are excellent in complimenting the sometimes nightmarish, sometimes dream-like worlds, with dark visuals and colorful visuals respectively. The music can also be atmospheric at times, and it can be befitting of two children fighting what are essentially nightmare makers, although some tracks may repeat, which may be a holdover from Nintendo 64 development.
You begin the game by selecting one of the two characters and sticking with your choice until the very end. You traverse through several dream worlds, beginning with the Haunted world, and moving to others such as Medieval and Underwater. All worlds have three levels, a Threadbear boss fight, and an optional race that you can partake in for rewards. Each level has two or three winks, and four dreamkeys that must be collected to access the boss fight. There are also “Z” tokens which restore your health and moon tokens for the ranged special attacks. Special forms are also present in several jack-in-the-box toys, all of which have signs which tell you which form you’re going to get once you jump inside them, such as ninja or monster form.
Playing the game on Normal difficulty, I can say that this isn’t an easy walk in the park. The enemies don’t hold back on surrounding and attacking you, and you’ve only got an attack button and a special attack button, both of which aren’t suited for groups of enemies.
All the levels have different themes and accompanying designs, for example, in the prehistoric world, you can access a land ravaged by lava and dinosaurs, a swamp, or a temple full of treasures. Most of these themes and hub worlds remind me of both Bugs Bunny: Lost in Time and Bugs Bunny and Taz: Time Twisters, which are games about time travel to similar settings. The levels are designed well, with the dreamkeys being hidden in clever places, the occasional puzzle (all easy to solve). In some levels, secrets are presents, which can reward you with RT tokens, which turn to an extra life if ten are collected. That said, not all parts of the levels are fair, and I found my cheapest deaths to nearly always involve bottomless pits.
The bosses are an entirely different story, arguably the weakest part of the game. For a good chunk of your boss fights, all you will end up doing is running away from Threadbear and the attacks from the minion he’s riding until it tires out, then run up to them and hit them. There are no phases that change the boss’s attacks, it’s just a repetitive and tiring process. Even the final boss suffers from this. Perhaps my favorite boss was the Pirate boss, which was a lot more interesting and different from the rest of the game, yet still far from properly executed.
I think 40 Winks is an underrated gem of a title that is marred by poor boss fights. The fact that you must defeat each boss before going to the next world (or to the final boss at all) can kill your enjoyment of an otherwise mystical and charming game.
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