The Dream Machine by Cockroach Inc.
Chapters 1 – 5 | 2010-2014
Made entirely out clay and cardboard, The Dream Machine demonstrates the fact that video games can truly be art, literally. This episodic point-and-click adventure game began in 2010, with its final chapter expected to release sometime this year (2017). Taking full advantage of its claymation art style, The Dream Machine attempts to combine visual appeal, challenging puzzles, and a dream-based storyline to deliver an outlandish gaming experience that is fantastic at the best of times, yet infuriatingly monotonous at its worst.
The story follows Victor Neff as he unveils the terrible secret hidden in the basement of his new apartment complex: The Dream Machine. Capable of rooting itself into ones’ subconscious, it is up to Victor to enter the dreams of his fellow tenants in order to shut the machine down. As you traverse fantastical dreamscapes, accompanied by an appropriately atmospheric soundtrack, you are presented with hand-crafted dioramas overflowing with meticulous detail. From the lighting of the clay environments to the changes in artistic style as you jump from reality to each dream world, creators Anders Gustafsson and Erik Zaring showcase their artistic prowess in the claymation style.
The Dream Machine‘s weakest point comes from the most tedious portion of the game: the puzzles. While outstandingly clever at certain times, the majority of puzzle solving involves a slew of vague hints that had me guessing more times than not on what to do. This is exhibited more so towards the later chapters where even finding an essential piece of the puzzle was a mundane affair, with little payoff afterwards (looking at you chapters 4 & 5). The game-settings include a feature to have Victor reveal more direct hints, but I still found myself searching a guide to find some minute detail I’d missed. Combined with crudely presented dialogue options, it became increasingly difficult to filter out the important clues needed to progress.
The most exceptional part of the game is Chapter 3, featuring elements of a murder mystery aboard a cruise ship within a dream. The writing is witty and alive, and the ambient music is absolutely sublime. Give this game a try if only for this single chapter, and maybe hold off on buying chapters 4 & 5 until the finale is revealed.
Music – 7.5/10
Visuals – 8/10
Flow – 6.5/10
Story – 8/10
Final Score – 7.5/10 [Well Done]
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