Have you ever had a dream so powerful that you just knew it had to mean something more than just a series of random events. It’s almost as if your subconscious mind is trying to tell you something about the life you are leading. Howard Phillips is having those exact dreams in Dream, an exploration game from developer HyperSloth.
Meet Howard, a lost graduate who has seemingly inherited a large amount of money from a dead family member. However, every night he eats pizza or Chinese food alone and watches t.v. programs he never finishes. Howard doesn’t have any drive. He doesn’t have any determination. He is floating through his life without a sense of direction. The only thing he does have is some very powerful, lucid dreams.
Dream is described as a “first person atmospheric exploration game.” That was a short way of saying that you’re going to be walking around and it will be pretty. In the dream world Howard is presented with a bunch of different things that tend to have dual means. The desert he is in may stand for him feeling lost, it might also stand for him searching for something. Dream is a game of interpretations. It is designed in such a way that you might actually learn something about yourself as you guide Howard through the world of his subconscious.
The visuals in Dream are gorgeous to say the least. Every environment tends to elicit a different reaction. At one point I was traveling down hallway that seemed to go on forever and a looming sense of dread continued to mount over me as I went. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was being followed. The one thing Dream does extremely well is make you feel like there is something more that you are missing.
At the core of the game lies the puzzles. The puzzles are there to not only progress you from one level to the next but also for Howard to learn something about himself. The controls are actually quite simple. Some items in the world can be picked up and observed. These things don’t really add much to the story but it is a nice distraction from the task at hand.
This is a game of self discovery at it finest, but that doesn’t stop if from suffering from the downfalls of other puzzle walking games. In between the puzzles there is little to see and do. Sure, the world is pretty, but much like with actual beauty, looks are only skin deep.
At the end of every dream there is a nightmare. The nightmare can get incredibly disturbing sometimes, especially when dolls come into play. Other then that the game is pretty straight forward. Dream also features multiple endings, showing that your choices in the game carry some weight. In a way it reminds me of The Stanly Parable. The soundtrack of the game is a real winner here. The music tends to intensify every scene that you are in and never feels like it is becoming a distraction.
All in all Dream feels like a game that could have used a little more work. It has a very interesting story that just somehow manages to feel incomplete. The world is stunning but a little devoid of life. The controls work great. I would love to see more content for the game that added deeper levels of game play. Oh well, a boy can dream.