THE DREAM MA­CHINE BUN­DLE

PCPOWERPLAY - - Opinion - DEVEL­OPER COCK­ROACH INC PRICE $ 15 www.the­dream­ma­chine.se

My ex­pe­ri­ence of re­view­ing The Dream Ma­chine was per­fectly aug­mented by a ver­bally abu­sive walk­through I found on Steam. The writer of the guide called me “a ‘fluff­ing’ id­iot” at one point and yelled at me, “IT’S A PUZ­ZLE GAME,” at an­other. Yet, I kept com­ing back for more hints. Why? This is a very dif­fi­cult ad­ven­ture game. The guide writer seemed per­fectly sin­cere with their in­sults, which I found hi­lar­i­ous. The only thing more funny was that I got so stuck, so of­ten, that I kept us­ing the guide. And, I des­per­ately wanted to see what hap­pened next.

How did I get my­self into this ridicu­lous predica­ment? Be­lieve it or not, this game was not on my radar at all. Their PR found me in time for the re­lease of a sixth, and fi­nal, episode. It wasn’t un­til I was on a cruise ship, in my preg­nant wife’s dream, with none of the (at least) eightythree other mes let­ting me speak to her un­til I’d in­ves­ti­gated whether one of the mes made an­other me “dis­ap­pear,” that I re­alised I was ab­so­lutely hooked. I do apol­o­gise for that last sen­tence. It does make sense. Maybe you’d like to read it again.

The Dream Ma­chine’s creators aren’t afraid to ex­plore hor­ror to its outer lim­its. Whether it’s a mil­lion dead selfs, the creepy jan­i­tor spy­ing on my bed­room, or mo­ments that get so much worse, you should steel your­self for sig­nif­i­cant squeamish­ness. At the out­set, you move into a new apart­ment with your wife, boxes of baby clothes com­ing with you, and it quickly be­comes clear that some­thing is very wrong with this place. The pre­sen­ta­tion, with char­ac­ters and sets made from clay, doesn’t de­tract from how gory things can get.

I re­mem­ber exploring Clay­ma­tion tech­niques with an art class, when I was teach­ing high school. It took those kids a year just to film a guy walk­ing across the room. The at­ten­tion to de­tail, and com­mit­ment to mak­ing ev­ery set in The Dream Ma­chine ab­so­lutely per­fect, is mind bog­gling. This also some­times makes pixel hunt­ing tricky. So, you need to look at ev­ery bot­tle, not just the group of bot­tles, as some are ir­rel­e­vant. And, the music is very sparse, but clever use of har­monic over­tones lends many of the set­tings a sense of in­or­di­nate space.

Ev­ery level is metic­u­lously cre­ated for the sole pur­pose of set­ting a truly out­landish story, much of which plays out in sur­real dream­scapes. The open­ing un­folds fever­ishly through puzzles, even with­out a clear goal in mind. And, the di­a­logue is sim­ple, but very ef­fec­tive. You will ban­ter with your wife, re­press what you re­ally want to say and con­front ques­tion­able evils. One mo­ment that moved me was in say­ing good­bye to a dy­ing man. I’d pre­vi­ously not felt any­thing but dis­gust for the guy, but then things got com­pli­cated.

The Dream Ma­chine is a game I couldn’t stop play­ing. With all six lev­els now re­leased, be­ware of the “boss puzzles” if you’re play­ing it as one game. I didn’t play this in­cre­men­tally, but it would be fun to do so, be­cause each episode is struc­tured to pro­vide cu­mu­la­tive chal­lenge, cliff hang­ers and such. Per­haps re­leas­ing rel­a­tively short episodes prompted the de­sign­ers to make the puzzles in­cred­i­bly dif­fi­cult. This is not to say they are too dif­fi­cult, just that they re­quire time and at­ten­tion to process. And if you use a hint guide, ap­par­ently, you’re a fluff­ing id­iot.

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