Dreams are a cheap currency in gaming. If they're not being used to dump exposition into a JRPG, enabling the amnesiac hero to learn that he's destined to save the world and may actually be an old friend of the effeminate villain who has been swishing about after him, then they're being used to annoy the tits off you by allowing developers to throw common sense out of the window. Yes, Max Payne, that means you.
Ye olde point-and-click adventure, it turns out, is one genre where mucking about with dreams actually works really well. Elastic logic that allows unlikely combinations to make a weird sort of sense, seemingly inconsequential obstacles that force you into an obsessive feedback loop of trial and error – this is part and parcel of adventure gaming, just as much as it's the stuff of late night cheese-binge fever dreams. This is all very fitting, as The Dream Machine plays very much like the nocturnal result of an ill-advised slab of mature 11pm cheddar.
A low-budget episodic browser game, it's most immediate hook comes from the handmade models that make up its cast and sets. Straight away, they lend proceedings an eerie and off-kilter aspect, even when the start of the game is deliberately banal. It'd be nice if the game gave us a few more close-ups to better appreciate the texture of this tactile world, but the effect is captivating all the same.
"This industry really enjoys beating things to a pulp."
It's been said many times, but that doesn't make it any less true: the internet has set game designers free. Before the online gates were opened, you could beaver away for months on your pet project but the chances were that nobody would see it outside of the limited confines of the public domain demo scene, and that's if you were lucky. Nowadays a game born of private passion can be uploaded, bounce from inbox to inbox and build a real-world audience with dizzying speed.
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