Duvet have talent or what?
We’re still nosing around Dreams because it’s an unusual prospect and we want to make sure we understand it, but in the meantime, we wanted to share some of the things we’ve found.
The Dreamverse is a busy place. Launching in early access roughly a year ago was an inspired move. It means there’s loads of good stuff to play already and it’s curated well, sorted into various categories. The main one you should concern yourself with is the IMPY Award winners, which show off the best things made in year one. You can’t miss them – the IMPYs are flagged with a huge image on the Dreamverse homepage.
But it’s not just old stuff: it’s genuinely staggering to see how much has been made since the game was released last week. There’s real ambition on show and the beginnings of some very big dreams.
Naturally, recreations are a recurring theme. Someone’s remaking Silent Hill, using audio recorded from the original game it sounds like, and someone else has built their own parkour system for a take on Mirror’s Edge. I got particularly excited for an action role-playing game called Heroes of Aldrenor, not only because I like that kind of thing, but because even though it’s barely more than a tech demo, the three character classes – caster, rogue and fighter – are up and running already, and play very well.
I might steal them for my own game. And that’s the thing: the more people make, the more there is for people to make with, because you can remix and evolve anything you play. So when someone comes up with good action RPG characters, or a working Parkour system, other people can pinch them and tweak them further, and the tide rises for all.
Here are a few of the things which have made us smile.
This is technically cheating because Ruckus was created months ago in early access and has been improved since, but it’s so bloody good I have to include it. It’s inspired by the Rampage series. In it, you become a monster like Godzilla and your only task is to wade over to an island nearby and smash it up. Aiding you in your task are a number of abilities, including tail spins, swipes and, best of all, a laser beam. You can even climb up the buildings and grab aeroplanes.
It’s snappy, never slows down under all the carnage, and the TV news report cut-aways – done while you rampage – are a touch of class. How many points can you rack up before Game Over? Play it – it will put a big smile on your face.
This apparently appeared very recently and unlike many other games, appears to be complete. It’s broadly a platformer, although it plays around with the interpretation. To begin with, you climb a circular tower, running around and around like in Nebulus, that old C64 game. Then, you’re whisked away into 3D platforming; then, you’re wielding lightning; then, you’re fire-dashing; then, you’re twin-stick shooting. And so on and so on. There’s a lot of imagination on show.
What’s really impressive is how well it’s stitched together. The Pilgrim shows what Dreams can do visually and musically, and there’s a semblance of a story binding it altogether. It’s remarkably accomplished. Bravo!
For a moment, you’ll just stop and stare. Being in Fallout 4 in Dreams is… it’s a moment. And it works. You can walk around, talk to the robot, equip weapons, use the weapons, even consult your arm-mounted PipBoy. How someone got all this working beggars belief.
Of course it’s only a tiny slice of a gigantic game and whether it will ever be close to being realised is another matter. But already you can nose around a city and shoot some robots, and poke around a sewer and shoot some good looking Mirelurks (I mean good looking as in authentic, not that I find them attractive). If other people chip in, who knows? (This is your cue to chip in.)
Grid Slice is a puzzle game about guiding a small block around in order to slice apart bigger blocks. But you can only slice them by moving in the direction of the arrow printed on the cube. And some cubes have special properties, like the ghost cubes, which you can’t slice apart while they’re white. And there are mines which pulse explosions that will kill you if you’re caught in them. Got all that? Now do it at speed. It’s tough.
Player Piano Player
Imagine Guitar Hero but you’re a Wild West saloon piano player, and when you fluff the notes, your patrons try to shoot you. They are literally a tough crowd. So, in addition to hitting the correct d-pad and face buttons in time to the music, you also need to dodge their crosshairs using your shoulder buttons. What a novel interpretation. It’s fun!
Shout out to Cow Runner! It’s not the most complicated game. You guide a cow around a farmyard race track while banjos plunk in the background. The only button you use is X, which you hold down to turn varying amounts. Turn too much or too little and the cow hits the electric fence, and is zapped until a gauge fills and pop! It explodes. Big misteak. Successfully complete a lap of the track and the cow’s speed increases. How far can you get? It’s irresistible.
Sonic Adventure Dreams Edition
You know the drill; you can’t talk about Sonic without bemoaning the fact that there hasn’t been a good game in ages, and how far Sega’s mascot has fallen from grace. Since Mania came along you can’t get away with that anymore, though, but I will say this – the Dreams take on Sonic Adventure is the best 3D Sonic game I’ve played since the brilliant Colours.
It’s a marvelous thing, with a neat sandbox-y approach that skews a bit closer to Mario 64 than the original Adventure games ever did, and more importantly it’s got that sense of pinballing speed that’s so important to Sonic down pat. It’s hugely impressive, and even in its unfinished state is a marked improvement on Sonic Team’s own efforts in recent years. There’s still plenty of work to be done, but I can’t wait to see what’s next – that’s if Sega doesn’t do the smart thing and snap this small team up to work on some authentic Sonic games in the future.
Hat Kid’s Summer Vacation: Open World Edition
This is another of those games that makes you stand back and gawp, Hat Kid’s Summer Vacation goes to prove it’s possible to make a fully-featured open world adventure in Dreams. There’s a vast world to explore – all conjured in Dreams’ beautiful aesthetic, of course – with plenty of distractions to boot. A scooter to race through a timed run in the hills! A helicopter to soar above the world!
Or you could just potter about as the kid unearthing all the secrets you can. With the tiniest bit of extra polish, there’s no reason something like Hat Kid’s Summer Vacation couldn’t be portioned off and served up as a standalone video game. But it’s here, right now, for you to play in Dreams – and it’s as good a place as any to start seeing the potential of what’s possible here.
The result of a train jam a few years back, this has been knocking around for a bit but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. If something like Hat Kid’s Summer Vacation can show you how a full game is possible in Dreams, Comic Sands shows off something else: it’s a short experience that is still entirely astounding as your primitive 2D platform character slowly evolves until they’re in a fully 3D world.
There’s probably only a couple of minutes to it all, but that’s what I love about it – it’s a neat, self-contained experience that’s entirely satisfying, and with more bite-size stuff like this Dreams could be well on its way to fulfilling its purpose of being a YouTube for gaming.