Into a Dream
Developer: Filipe F. Thomaz
Publisher: Top Hat Studios
Genre(s): Platformer, Puzzle, Adventure
Platform: Nintendo Switch (also available on Steam)
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 04/03/2021
A code was provided for review purposes.
I don’t think there has ever been an age where there has been a larger global concern, understanding or recognition of mental health as there is right now. With everybody struggling from the long-running effects of Covid-19, the concept of mental health is no longer the large taboo it used to be.
This subject has also never been a stranger to video games, with many titles being created that take a serious look at mental health. By this, I mean games that show a level of understanding of it rather than using it as a plot device for some larger unrelated construct.
GRIS is one such game that will always linger in my mind as dealing with grief, anguish, and mental health. Rime is another title that comes to mind. So, when Into a Dream appeared on our review list, I just had to jump at it.
Created by indie developer Filipe F. Thomaz, in what appears to be his first published game, Into a Dream tells a story of depression from the inside, taking you deep into the mind of the game’s central character. Can you save him before it’s too late? It really could be a matter of life and death.
Keep reading this Rapid Review to hear my full thoughts on this game.
Handle with Care
When a game deals with a subject as sensitive as mental health, particularly depression and more, shall we say, the permanent consequence that can arise, it needs to be done with care. It would be too easy to either trivialize the issue. That could happen by taking the story either too light or too extreme. It calls for a sensitive hand and a carefully written plot. Luckily, Thomaz largely pulls it off. The game does not trivialize mental health and takes the story down a very dark path. There were times whilst playing that I needed to pause the game and walk away to play something else.
I do feel that the dialogue was, at times, a little stilted, and felt almost too carefully rehearsed. I mean, sure, the game is scripted, but I just feel that the characters were a little too stoic. Especially the main character, or rather the one you are controlling. His reactions and his words were a little bit like Kiefer Sutherland’s turn as president in Designated Survivor. No experience or guidance yet managed to say and do the right thing, in the right way, every single time.
Was it the voice over? Was it the script? It was a little bit of both, and in many other games would possibly go unnoticed, but due to the sensitive nature of Into a Dream, it stood out too much.
Possibly a Non-Linear Plot Device
I won’t give away the story of the game because it needs to be experienced, in all of its harrowing glory. However, I will say that the construct seemed to be all over the place. Events and dates, statements made contradicted one another. Now I think, in fact, I am almost certain, that this was an intentional plot device.
The darkness of mental health twisting reality and twisting the truth in our heads, slowly convincing us until all we see is the lies it has whispered. However, there were a few bits that I felt could have been done a little better, and it is possible a few things slipped through, riding the coattails of this intentional confusion.
Behind the Plot Lie Platforming and Puzzles
Behind the plot lies a game filled with puzzles and platforming. Now, we are not talking platforming like Mario or puzzles like Portal, but still, it breaks up the walking some.
The extent of platforming never really expands beyond climbing a box or making a small jump, while the puzzles are rarely anything more strenuous than fetching an item and putting it in the right place. The trickiest part was the temperature puzzle at the Lab, but even that didn’t take long to get correct.
I was disappointed with the animations of the character as he moved. Running went ok, but any time you needed to climb or jump, the character looked and felt very stiff. This was disappointing as it was apparent each and every time.
Simple Aesthetic Works Well for the Type of Game
I really enjoyed how this game looked. The generally simplistic graphics style worked well and when the screen called for more detailed imagery, it popped even more. I liked how all the characters were shadows, as it echoed the anguish of depression. If I had one complaint about the look of the game, it was the rather suspect choice of font colour for some of the characters. This was especially so for the daughter. Her lines of dialogue were shown in a bright yellow. This had me squinting at the screen on several occasions. It’s a minor irritation really but I feel it should have been considered at some point in the development process.
There is a lot of credit that should be given to the developers of this game. They took a serious topic and they turned it into a credible game. I just can’t help but feel it is just short of being a finished product. There is something missing that makes me feel this is more prototype looking for feedback than a final design.
A Major Bug Halted My Progress
I put a shade over four hours into the game and was making good progress with the story which I believe runs about 5 hours or so total when disaster struck. I was pushing ahead, disconnected from the story somewhat as I felt the constant jumble of events made the character far less sympathetic and was starting to alienate the player from him. Suddenly, a new screen loads and the game is broken. First, the moving components and my character appeared as giant black rectangles that consumed almost all the screen, and then after trying to push on the character stopped spawning altogether.
I restarted the game, left it for a while and returned after playing something else, but the same problem existed. Having since looked around online I have seen others reporting the same problem. I do hope that the developers can fix this and release an update. I’m not really interested in finishing the story anymore, but just for the sake of the team that put a lot of hard work into building the game, it deserves to be played right the way through.
While Into a Dream is not a bad game, I cannot say that it is a great one. It is, I would suggest, mediocre. It touches on some very delicate points and handles them well, but then some dialogue sections were too static and made me lose interest in the story. In addition, some of the puzzles seem pointless, simply there to give the character something to do. Puzzles that do not necessarily enhance the story but add a little extra to the gameplay. Nothing wrong with this, but it just doesn’t feel like everything ties together seamlessly, the way you would hope.
Full credit should be given for the fact that Into a Dream is a single developer game, and the energy and passion that has gone into it should not be diminished. With a few small tweaks, this game could be very good, and I would certainly be interested in reviewing more titles from this developer as they are released.
Notwithstanding the game blocking bug I found, which unfortunately at this point in time is going to have to impact my review score.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can get your copy of Into a Deam from the Nintendo eShop here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.