This is not a review. I want to spend more with Dreams as a whole before I think about that. These are impressions of the story campaign.
There’s a message at the beginning of Dreams’ story campaign that made my heart sink. I’d been waiting for this campaign. I hoped it would prove what Dreams as a package would be. I knew there was a powerful editor because people have been playing with it in early access for months. But what about the other bit? What about what Media Molecule can do with the tools? What about the game?
Finally, yesterday, it – Art’s Dream – arrived. Time to see what Dreams was really capable of. Then, though, that message: “This story was made entirely in Dreams to give just a glimpse of what’s possible with our tools.” Just a glimpse? It’s been how many years and that’s all we get? A couple of hours and that’s it? Sadly, yes.
Art’s Dream is literally Art’s dream. He’s a bassist in a jazz band and he’s riddled with fear and doubt. This manifests in his dream as an evil crow you have to overcome.
The game jumps between genres in order to show what Dreams can do. It mostly flits between action, platforming and point-and-click, thereby demonstrating combat, jumping around and even multiple-choice dialogue, and they all look like different games. My, how versatile you are, Dreams.
The point-and-click parts were my favourite. They’re the ones with dialogue. I roamed around, talked to people, solved puzzles by finding objects and looking around for clues. There’s a lot of charisma and humour. I particularly liked: “Is that a moustache or have your eyebrows come down for a drink?” And the security guard rap song was inspired.
But it’s underdeveloped. All parts are. I would quite happily have sat through an entire point-and-click rather than skim around a handful of other genres. They’re only ever imitations of, and never as strong as, games native to those genres, as if it’s enough to tick the boxes and move on. By the time Media Molecule does anything like dig into their independent potential, the whole thing is over.
It’s a shame because Art’s Dream has it all going for itself. It’s gorgeous and it’s got a wonderful, jazzy brand of style, and quite a nice message too, come to think of it. And by the end, it really gets going. You’re racing, flying, leaping, blasting music from guitars, and it’s very exciting. But then no, stop – this is just a glimpse, remember? It’s not a whole game. Someone else will have to do that.
I can’t shake the feeling Art’s Dream is a bit of a cop out. It’s like Media Molecule saying, look, that’s as far as we got (for whatever reason), you guys are going to have to do the rest. Viewed alone, as a piece of content someone made in Dreams, for Dreams, it’s outstanding, but it is not the spine Dreams as a package needs. And that worries me.