Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Dream Machine: Chapter 2 Review

The second chapter of The Dream Machine certainly has a lot to live up to, as it's the first chapter of the game which is not free to play.  Luckily, it not only manages to live up to expectations, but exceeds them as this game is much better than the already endearing first chapter.

The chapter begins in the landlord's seemingly empty apartment. I have to point out here that if you play chapter one directly into chapter two the chapters transition seamlessly into each other. This is the first time I have seen an episodic game do this, but it was handled so well, I find myself hoping other studios do this in their future games.

The first part of the game involves finding out where your landlord is hiding.  This part is entertaining, and the puzzles are challenging yet follow logic well.  But, the game really begins once you discover the titular dream machine.  You won't truly track down your landlord until you search for him in his dreams, and the team really amps up the art and puzzle quality once you do.

The clay and cardboard art design was wonderful in the first chapter, but in the dream world it really shines.  The art direction really evokes a sense of wonder, and the fogginess present in your landlord's dream really fits his character.  The storyline is handled well as well, as you meet characters in the dream world that are memories of people he's known and symbols of people he's never known but holds in high regard.  These characters let you discover more about the landlord as a character, as well as uncover his motivations behind the machine.

The puzzles here are really creative.  They have a different logic to them than the puzzles in the first chapter, as you are now in the dream world.  So, there's a "dream logic" at play here.  The solutions are whimsical, but they are believable within the context of the world.  They all consist of puzzles which exist just to help the dream characters. However, there is a feeling of accomplishment once you have solved them, as each puzzle leads to more interesting back-story being unfolded. It's all handled very organically, and it works out really well.

While still not containing anything which will stick in your head after the game is over, the music is also used to good effect in this chapter The music is spooky yet whimsical, and helps give the scenes extra atmosphere. It really goes hand in hand with the wondrous artwork.

The Dream Machine Chapter Two takes everything that made chapter one so fun and improves upon it in every way. While the game is still a bit short, and the heavy text of the game practically calls for full character voices (although there is an option for an automated narrator using a computer voice for the hearing impaired), its shortcomings are far outweighed by the positives. The engaging storyline, excellent art design, and fun puzzles would have been at home in a game made during the golden age of adventures.

Final Verdict:

4 out of 5

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