Developer: Rising Win Tech. Co. Ltd.
Publisher: Winking Entertainment
Genre: Puzzle, Visual Novel, Horror
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 15/10/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
I felt an instant pull to Dream, the moment I saw it on the available games list. It had the graphics style that I really enjoy. One that I find works really well in the horror genre. After I started playing it, I realized it was a little different to what I had originally thought, more of a point and click visual novel. However, undeterred, I dove into the story and allowed the creepy halls of the hospital to become my home. Stay with me as we look at my experience and ask ourselves if Dream was as good as it looked, or more of a waking nightmare.
Atmospheric Graphics but Lacklustre Audio
As a fan of horror games and the general macabre, I was feeling positive going into a game that opens with a character trapped inside a locker in a bloodstained mortuary. I feel that throughout the game the developers did a good job of maintaining not only the eerie but also the twisted sense of reality that was so important to the story. Each room or rather, each scene you puzzled your way through was well thought out, and presented in a manner suitable to the game’s tone.
The grimy, dilapidated hospital, the ethereal dream-like sequences, the overall sense of confusion and at times claustrophobia certainly set the scene for a captivating gaming experience. However, while the visuals were strong, I was left very disappointed with the game’s soundtrack. The only words that describe it are lacklustre and unenthusiastic. The same few notes played on repeat. Albeit with a haunting tone it just lacked any substance and at times downright irritated me.
I would also like to make a special mention of the refreshing change where the developers chose to lower the fan-service aspect of their characters and go for a much more natural design. Given the games I have both seen and played recently this was a refreshing sign.
Clever Puzzles that Hinged on Small Details
Dream is predominantly a puzzle game with narrative-driven visual novel scenes placed between them. I really thought this worked well, and while there are some negatives that will have to be mentioned, the overall puzzle design I found to be very impressive. The trick, and I feel I can say this without upsetting anybody, is to pay attention to the small things. At times, especially when playing handheld, it felt as if I had found everything I could, but some almost indistinguishable object could be clicked. My experience proved that this was often the crucial item for solving the section.
Collecting the items was straight forward. However, sometimes, for the smaller pieces, you needed to position the cursor with great precision. I understand why but it was a tad irksome at times. Items collected either offered clues or were used directly in solving puzzles. Sometimes individually and sometimes combined. I came across one rather annoying bug in the game that saw the wrong label get applied to a clue. It happened to be a very important label. So I lost a lot of time trying to solve a piece of the puzzle with the wrong item, even though the label said it was what I needed (a bucket of water).
I enjoyed the way the puzzles were put together, and soon found the rhythm with them. Solving one part naturally led to another and so forth. This pattern once identified helped with assessing the different scenes but did not hamper or impede the gameplay in any way. If anything it made it more engrossing. The only gripe I did have was that for a few of the puzzles, knowledge of eastern games or terminologies was required. I did need to Google a few terms to understand how a puzzle worked. This was not looking up the answers, but rather general information on the culture behind the game.
The Story was Interesting but Ruined by Poor Writing
I won’t give away anything relating to the story itself, because Dream is a game that deserves to be experienced. However, the writing in it was sub-par. I feel bad saying this, as I understand the developers are not native English speakers. However, the constant problems with tense, verb usage and general grammar and spelling issues really did dilute the final story. If you’re going to put a game out in a language that isn’t your own, then work definitely needs to be done to ensure better accuracy.
The same can be said for the dialogue between the different characters. There were times when it was spot on and set the right scene. However, for others, it swung wildly from overly formal to almost childlike. This would even happen during the same exchange and contributed to the overall disconnect between player and full immersion in the created world.
Multiple Endings Allow for Replayability
There is of course only one true ending that can be found, but there are different ways to die. Such as by making the wrong choice during certain puzzle-solving moments. At one point, I made a bad judgement call and lost a life after a long break between saves. This was annoying and set me back some as I needed to solve all the puzzles again. Despite knowing their solutions I still needed to go through the motions of discovery.
A Solid Title but Could Have Been More
Overall I was impressed with Dream. It is a solid title with a good range of puzzles. Some come to you easily and leave you feeling confident. Others will have you scratching your head, and then cursing at the eventual simplicity. I really did enjoy the way the puzzles were structured, both in terms of gameplay and difficulty. The mix was well done, and ultimately very few were so hard you felt cheated by the eventual solution. Just know that you will have to do some head-scratching if you want to complete the game.
I just cannot forgive the weakness in storytelling and dialogue. Maybe it’s just me as a writer, but I do feel the game needed better attention in this regard. If you like puzzle games and find the spooky a fun way to pass the time, then Dream on Nintendo Switch is a solid title to add to your library.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can get your copy of Dream from the Nintendo eShop today.