Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Dream Machine (Chapters 1-3)

Published and developed by Cockroach Ink.

            The recent revival of point-and-click adventure games by indie developers has been great for anybody interested in the genre.  If nothing else, there has been a great selection of them, and The Dream Machine’s first three chapters are a promising start.
            After moving into his new apartment with his wife, Alicia, Victor Neff finds a mysterious note that the previous tenant left.  From there, he realizes that there is something more going on in the apartment building, eventually leading to the reveal of the dream machine itself, which is mapping out the collective dreamscape.
            It should be noted that this game is a bit of a slow mover.  It’s lucky that the first two chapters are bundled together, as chapter 1 on its own does not stand at all.  It’s basically just “There’s something odd going on here” up until halfway through chapter 2.  If this was a game as itself, this would have been acceptable, but the fact that the game is being released episodically makes this a bit of an odd choice.  The other big note I should make before I continue is that this game may look family-friendly for a while, with only a sprinkling of harsh language, but the end of chapter 3 goes to a very dark territory.  Make no mistake, this is a game for adults.
            What sets this game apart most of all are the visuals.  They are done with hand-made claymation, giving the game a great style.  It lets it be very stylized while still being grounded.  Most importantly, it gives it that touch of love that shows that the developers really dedicated themselves to this game.  The other interesting thing Dream Machine does is in its dialogue choices.  During dialogue, you’re constantly given the chance to be mean to other characters.  It seems to have little effect on how the game actually turns out, but it is nice to give the player a chance to put some personality of their own into Victor.
            And of course, every adventure game stands or falls based on its puzzles.  I’d say the puzzles here are fairly simple.  There was only one I really had trouble with, while most of them tended to be “Pick up everything you can and find a use for it”.  Still, there were never any great logical leaps that had to be made, no games of guessing what the developer was thinking.  Everything made sense, and it may just be that things made too much sense at times.  This does make the game a good place to start for those new to the adventure genre.

            While its puzzles may not be the most difficult, Dream Machine’s interesting visuals and atmosphere make it a fun adventure game.  Its first three chapters are out now, and hopefully, it won’t be too long for the final two.

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