Whilst Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture has been getting the bulk of the attention in August (2015), I have found myself playing another exploration game. Dream, by Hypersloth, and despite having reservations due to being burned by other games in the genre that just lack that something, this actually kind of impressed me a little.
As with many of these games, Dream has a wonderfully realised world for you to wander around in. It is gorgeous to look at and you feel like you are actually in the world that has been set out for you. Unlike other games though, this has been set in our protagonist’s dreams, which allows for a fair amount of creative license, which in turn allows the developers to really branch out.
The structure is very familiar if you have played any of the plethora of other games in the genre, such as Gone Home, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter and the aforementioned Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. You walk around in first person as a story slowly unravels around you and your reason for being becomes clearer and clearer.
What I liked about Dream though, was that it seems to follow the ideas set out by Gone Home, where there seems to be enough structure to the story that you want to push on to find out what comes next. It helps too that there is a decent amount of interaction to help things along.
You see, for me, that is the problem with a lot of games in this genre. Sure they look nice, but the story is either too loose, or it lacks the interaction for it to feel more than a glorified tech demo. It is why Gone Home remains my favourite and EGTTR wasn’t my cup of tea.
Not everything in the world is interactive, which can get a little frustrating, especially early on when there are a couple of arcade cabinets in the dream world that tease they may do something if you interact with them. Therein lays the biggest problem with Dreams.
You only get an indicator something has an interaction to it when you get right up close, which in itself is fine, but when the rules as to what is and isn’t interactive aren’t set in stone it can make actually wanting to check annoying.
A lightswitch in one area can be used, but not another, this screen will do something, but this one won’t. It means that at times you just know going over to an object may be pointless, but you can’t risk leaving it, just in case.
All it needs here is some kind of sound or visual cue, just to alert that something of interest is around. Again this is frustrating, because at other times, the protagonist’s internal monologue will give some indications. Such as telling you you’ll need to get to this item from another direction.
These are only a few minor things, but they do add up to take away from the experience on the whole, which is a shame, because everywhere else I found that the game shone very brightly.
A nice touch as well, is some light puzzle elements, that will get you thinking but also make you feel like you have some control over moving forward, that you aren’t simply along for the ride. Most of the time these work wonderfully, but I found one or two that seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time as the story was taking shape. Especially as you’d get a bit of an overview from our hero!
The protagonist in this case is Howard Phillips and it is clear from the opening moments he lives a dull and unfulfilled life, but when he sleeps his subconscious takes him into a world that is the complete opposite.
As seems to be popular in games at the moment, the lead is British and his narration is both relaxing and at the same time has you listening intently. He isn’t talking constantly, but will jump in at just the right moments to uncover a little more of the story and give a bit of reasoning as to why you are where you are and seeing what you are seeing.
Overall this is a fine package and a title that has somewhat surprised me as to how much I enjoyed it. Those minor annoyances stop it being a classic, but it is certainly better than most games of this type. If you liked anything else in the genre, then this is certainly worth £13 of your hard earned cash.