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dream:scape Review

By Andrew Nesvadba, on June 14, 2011


dream:scape
  • Publisher: Speedbump
  • Genre: Puzzle
  • Released: 9 Jun, 2011
  • Size: 191.4 MB
  • Price: $0.99
Download on the AppStore
Rating

PROS

  • Haunting environments; changing weather and time of day adds to the atmosphere.
  • Simple 'found narrative' adventure style; easy to pick up and finish.
  • Excellent audio production; solid voice acting and musical cues.

CONS

  • Control issues; virtual stick detection haphazard and swipes register poorly for Quick Time Events.
  • Several bugs and compatibility problems; includes not being able to save game completion correctly.

VERDICT

dream:scape is less of a game and more of an interactive novel; several bugs currently let the game down, but the narrative is still touching enough to play out to completion.


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The adventure genre in its most pure form has had its highs and lows, however an individual game's success isn't always based on the strength of its narrative. This is in part due to the way individuals approach gaming in general, be it through a narrative filter or one of the gameplay itself (for more on this search for Narratology vs Ludology). For those asking why I've delved in to gaming philosophy, I present dream:scape by Speedbump - a short, but gripping little narrative that takes players on a beautiful, if slightly flawed journey through the last fleeting memories of an old man.

You play the role of Wilson, trapped in the 'dreamscape' - a place between life and death - where memories can be explored and relived to gain some clarity before you pass on. The rather condensed environments of Bastion Falls provides a backdrop for the player in which memories are unlocked one at a time by first visiting an area, being given a hint as to the item you require and then searching for it. At first the free exploration and chains of memories fit together snugly, giving a warm and absorbing glimpse in to Wilson's simple past, but players are soon introduced to a Quick Time Event (QTE) system that not only feels out of place, but also signifies an abstract turn in the narrative that places objects or blockades in strange locations to squeeze out a bit more play-time from the game.

However this is nothing new for the adventure genre and exploring the beautiful country landscape is rewarding in itself thanks to the Unreal Engine's capabilities. Pairing these visuals with a haunting soundtrack and top-notch voice acting makes for an absorbing experience despite having the narrative told almost exclusively through the audio and entries in to your diary.

Sadly the control issues and other bugs work against dream:scape in a way that profoundly taints the experience. What should be a flowing, ethereal narrative is broken by awkward climbing, platforms and QTEs that border on being impossible.

If you enjoy adventure games and have an attraction to games like Alan Wake on the XBox 360, you'll find yourself wrapped up in this brief, but enchanting tale; its focus on story over gameplay may be off-putting to some, but if you are interested, do yourself a favor and wait until some of the obvious flaws are fixed in an update.

Screenshots

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