DREAM is an exploration/puzzle game from HyperSloth. It is one of the many games that has made it through Steam’s Greenlight system, and unfortunately it’s not really that great.
I think it has the potential to be really good (or at the very least, a whole lot better!), if played through the Oculus Rift (which I unfortunately do not have access to),
I will begin by saying that this is an early impressions piece, I am only 4~ hours into the game at the time of writing this.
DREAM is not great. But, it isn’t all bad either. It it just unfortunate that the bad aspects completely ruin the good ones. It has amazing music and the sound design really helps make the atmosphere believable but the dialogue and story (at times) completely destroy it and any credibility the game had in terms of immersion or horror. The scenery of the game is nice but a lot of the time empty with nothing to interact with, also the puzzles get pretty tedious pretty quickly.
The story is not very present in the first couple of hours, you play as Howard Phillips (yes, a reference to H.P. Lovecraft) then something about your uncle dying and leaving you his house and you’re trying to find what you want to do with your life and trying to justify your worth to the world. You have these very lucid dreams and it’s not really been established thus far if this is tied to the house or whether it’s just you. Something also about you fighting with your parents, and with the voice the main protagonist has it sounds like he’s far too old to still be having arguments with his mum and dad about what he’s doing with his life.
So first the good parts of the game. The music and atmosphere is amazing at stages but it’s clear that this game was made with the intention of playing using the Oculus Rift which indeed would have made this game much more enjoyable (as the Oculus Rift would with most games).
Now, unfortunately, the bad parts. The very first puzzle is a maze where you have to walk through about 30 lights, which turn them off. The goal is to turn them all off whilst avoiding the big spooky black smoke that lurks in the maze. The entire time I was doing this I was thinking “Well gee, this is boring and would be slightly less boring with the addition of an Oculus Rift.” and when I was finally done I the only thing that comforted me was knowing I never had to do that again. Or so I thought.
Turns out the next puzzle is basically identical to the previous one.
As was the next.
Yes, this very boring puzzle needs to be done four times, granted with very very slightly differences (different scenery, rocks/sand blocking your path and crazy gas that makes the screen wobble around), but not different enough to change the fact that it’s monotonous and a terrible excuse for level design.
There are some very irritating minor annoyances that plague this game, such as the fact that the subtitles that appear when the character frequently speaks to himself very rarely match what he is saying, instead having one or two words different (trigger warning for any OCD sufferers out there).
This, coupled with the shear amount of text, does not make for happy-time-go-have. Yes, granted, some of it is optional flavour text, but I always feel I’m missing out if I skip past it all. The characters voice is also grating after a while and some of the dialogue is just atmosphere shattering. The part that best displays this is the section where you’re walking around your house in a dream and there’s all these spooky dolls running around causing a mess and it’s pretty unnerving and really quite cool. Of course, ol’ mate Howard (all chipper) chimes in with “Man! These dolls sure are creepy!”
Yeah… thanks for the running commentary, Howard.
Another minor gripe I have is the amount of reused dialogue. There are multiple ways to cause the level to end, and you can go back to the same area and explore it again from the start. However, all of the audio triggers come back when you re-enter the level. You walk into an area and Howard yells out “Hello! Anyone there?“, which wasn’t too annoying at first, but as it happens every single time with every single piece of annoying dialogue after coming back from the hub world, you get over it pretty quickly.
To wrap up, this game would be a really nice exploration game when played with an Oculus Rift (I can assume) but when played on just a regular monitor there is just really too many set pieces and puzzles obviously made for the Rift and it leaves you bored and wanting something to do. But that’s pure speculation on my behalf. It could be just as boring on an Oculus Rift too.