A wedding that never was, a life together that never became more than deep feelings of sorrow. In a coma Wilson solves the mystery to what happened on that day that was supposed to be the best day of their lives. In the dream:scape he travels through his past guided by voices, and whispers from his loved one Amelia. This is his final attempt at reconciling with the past, as his body withers away in the nursing home. Within his dreams he is still the young man looking forward to the future. Where did she go?
Dream:scape is not a game, but rather an experience viewed in first person. I would classify this game as a first person novel. You control Wilson by using two virtual analogue sticks. For movement this works quite well using the left stick. For some strange reason Wilson moves quickest when the stick is pushed diagonally. I hence tend to run around the countryside more or less sideways. For viewing the world you can either use the on screen stick, or swipe wherever you want on the right side of the screen. On the iPad swiping works best, and on the smaller iPhone the stick is preferred by me. There are no action controls, and this is easy to understand since Wilson is in a dream:scape trying to understand his past. There are however quick action sections where you have to quickly repeat a swipe. These feel devoid of purpose since there is no punishment other than having to repeat the sequence if you miss.
The controls can also be slightly temperamental when trying to balance across planks, and ledges. At these occasions I have had Wilson falling down far too often. Trying to make small adjustments in movements often becomes interpreted as adjustments in viewing angle. As there are no enemies, and no true challenge this is still a minor problem.
Dream:scape manages to capture a mood not far from that found in the calmer explorative sections of Resident Evil and Silent Hill. At times I fantasised that a radio would start to hiss Silent Hill style when walking about in the dream:scape. Even the slight piano pieces flowing in at times reminds me of those great games.
The gaming elements found in dream:scape consist of finding an object to automatically solve a problem. Getting into the church gate demands you to find something that you can turn into a lockpick. When you reach a location that demands something to open up you get to see an image of the desired object. The image gives quite a lot of clues to where it can be found. Once found you backtrack to open the new location, or gain a new object. Voices can also give you clues, and hence you need to have the audio on at all times.
The story is good with a steady pace, and great narrative. Melancholy, despair, love and hope are all interspersed in the love story between Wilson and Amelia. I won’t say more than that, as the story is quite short and if you get too many pieces from me I might spoil it. In the end it actually managed to surprise me slightly, as I had another theory of what had happened than the story told.
Using the Unreal engine dream:scape looks really good. Especially when out and about the game shines with flowing hills, detailed water effects and nice buildings. Up close the game suffers from lack of detail, and becomes slightly blurry. This is most evident on the iPad that looks best in open areas, but worst inside barns or houses. I still prefer the game on the larger screen, as it plays like a novel.
The audio is top notch, and manages to enhance the experience. Ambient sounds interspersed with the melancholic piano, and dreamy whispers of Amelia all sets a mood that sends chill down my spine. All voice work is excellent, and feels suitable to the characters. Gameloft could probably learn a thing or two from this small indie developer.
Dream:scape offers a couple of hours of fairly straightforward find the item puzzles. At times it feels like I am being led by the hand, and that it doesn’t really matter what I do. At other times I just walk about, and marvel at the scenery. Once you have completed the story you are free to walk about in free roam. This is however an empty experience, and I rather replay the story than walk about alone.
If you want an audiovisual experience with a good story dream:scape is definitely recommended. As a game it lacks challenge, action and precise controls. It is better to view it as an interactive novel with slight puzzle elements than a game. And with the level of immersion it is an experience worthy of your time. To me this is a great indication that we have a new great indie developer to keep an eye on in Speedbump Studios. And with dream:scape a new genre in gaming is born: the first person novel.
dream:scape $1.99 Universal
Seller: George Lippert / Speedbump Studios