Why just create a great game, when you go further and have your audience use it to push their own imagination and creativity? Media Molecule have been cranking out these types of experiences for over a decade, and are now ready to dive into Dreams. Dreams acts as a creation suite where players can create and share their own games, all of which utilizing multiple engines and mechanics that are just as fun to play as they are to create. Is Dreams’ this generation’s answer to Little Big Planet, or is it a thought that is sure to be forgotten? Let’s find out.
There is indeed a story to tell within Dreams. The whole game presents itself in kind of a naïve way, where we meet a little poof called an imp who acts as our cursor and guide to this fantasy universe. While the atmosphere is nice, the narrative that comes with the game Media Molecule built within Dreams is what is truly special. Art’s Dream is a fusion of multiple genres and features a protagonist of the same name who is out to reunite with his love and save his beloved dragon in the process.
It sounds a bit silly, but the whole narrative is actually quite dark and deals with deep themes such depression, regret, and insecurity in a very upfront manner, with a tale that feels good to progress through. There are so many likable characters as well, like a train conductor who bursts into song at random and little robots who are almost as endearing as the lovely environment they are allowed to explore. Most players will easily breeze through this little sampler title within two hours, but it does set a nice example of what can be created, while also giving Dreams its own definitive centerpiece – much like Sackboy was to Little Big Planet.
To speak of the gameplay in Dreams, you have to speak about two different elements. One would of course be the actual gameplay, and the other would be the actual creation tool within. For the gameplay, I am mainly going to reference Art’s Dream, as it again that was created to show off all of the offerings this experience has as a whole. Art goes from a noir-themed point and click, to a platformer, to a rhythm romp, to a visual novel, to a twin-stick shooter in just a short time, and thankfully – most works well.
I know it is a bit like nagging to bring up the “floaty” stylings of Little Big Planet that I didn’t care for, but when I first downloaded Dreams, my biggest fear was that it would feel like that. I didn’t really care for platforming in that game, and thankfully, everything feels far more weighted and enjoyable within Dreams. The platforming sections do not really have a lot of thought out processes, but they do just enough to feel satisfying. The player has the ability to add chaos to create an illusion of further depth, which really broadens the potential of what you can make or play. It isn’t just about platforming though, as you can also craft other genres, such as a wonky sports title, or a story heavy point and click. It is all about who built the experience and who plays it, for the most part.
I did have some slight frustration when dealing with tutorials when it came to world building, as the camera had issues following my precise movements – leading to a giant pink imp failing myself for a minor test. I also noticed some players kind of rush their little creations and either make vague, meaningless romps, or do not fully realize mechanics for a game that simply functions – without the bells and whistles. I could easily see a lot of ping-pong or walking simulators built here. Again, like LBP – this comes down to creator for the most part, so hopefully as this title ages, more creativity will come out.
Visually, there is a lot to praise within Dreams. The game has a very eye-pleasing art style with dark, rich colors that set a specific atmosphere for the player. The hints and design choices add a lot of accessibility for the world creator as well, letting the player get full reign of every angle and perspective of their game. Animations kind of have that intentional stiffness for some characters and models, but with Media Molecule – this seems to be something included by choice to enhance personality of what may have been bland characters otherwise.
The music is fantastic within Dreams. Art’s Dream really shines with the soundtrack, as the jazzy tunes and original songs make it feel like you just landed a free ticket to an animated feature. There is a lot of character in the included music within, and you definitely can lean on that if you are having trouble creating that spark for your own experience. The sound effects also create a lot of atmosphere and help define moments for levels within, with little chimes and chirps that pop out and add layers to minor mechanics.
Dreams is a home run for Media Molecule. Art’s Dream, which is simply just a sampler platter within the game – could easily have released as a digital title and receive praise. Knowing that this is just the tip of the iceberg of what we will potentially see is really exciting, as it has been a while since we had such an accessible platform to create a fully realized experience. Sure, there are limitations, but those are up to the creator and the player, and those without any imagination will still have plenty to do with the hundreds of games already available to play.
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