Is This Your Dream Game?
Back at E3 2015, Media Molecule’s latest project Dreams was officially announced. Pegged as a game creation software that literally lets you customize, play and create in a far more intuitive and responsive manner than that of Little Big Planet, it’s taken a good 5 years since then for the full game to be released. That’s to say nothing of the initial game concept being pitched back in 2013. All good things come to those who wait and in the case of Dreams, that’s very much the case. Part game-showcase, part game creation software, the only limitation to Dreams is your own imagination…and your tolerance for the control scheme.
As an early adopter of the software, Dreams has grown and evolved over the months into an impressive showcase of talent. From fully fledged remakes of beloved classics like Mario and Lego Star Wars through to clever original titles across a wide-span of genres, Dreams is unlike anything else out there. Of course, this also makes reviewing the title incredibly tricky too – do you review this as a game? Or as a game creation software? The answer is, I guess, a bit of both. Mileage will vary from person to person but it’s a very specific game that itches a very specific scratch, one that you’ll either pick up and love or pick up, play for 2 or 3 hours and never come back to again.
If you’ve ever found yourself playing a title and becoming inspired to expand on some ideas and create your own game, most of the game creation software has a very steep learning curve. Dreams is no exception but the difference here is that learning through playing around with the tools on offer is half the fun. The ease of whipping up something playable right off the bat is really impressive, with a whole smattering of tools and trinkets to your disposable to use (more on that later).
The initial Media Molecule showcase, titled Art’s Dream, is a wonderful 2-3 hour example of how to blend genres and ideas into a cohesive game, offering up more than enough juice to the imagination to get cracking on your own projects…or not if you fancy just browsing through the extensive catalogue of games and scenes on offer – something that will inevitably grow over the coming weeks and months. I’d recommend starting with this before anything else, especially given some of the lucrative prize bubbles that help unlock some useful tools to remix and manipulate in your own projects.
When you first load up Dreams, you’re introduced to the usual array of options and controls. Having used the motion controls and the move controllers during the Early Access, the ability to map this to the Dualshock instead is a really welcome sight, especially given how cumbersome and fiddly these controls can be during detailed animation or graphical work. After a quick guide through the controls and ideas, you arrive at your Dreamiverse; a space you can mess around and fill up with various different ideas and showpieces. From here, the game splits into two core sections – Dream Shaping and Dream Surfing.
Dream Surfing is your in-house arcade and with a smooth UI and some decent searching tools, there are a lot of games here worth trying out. Between the MM mini-games and constant stream of beloved classics like Mario and Sonic (no doubt someone will attempt to recreate Timesplitters soon!), are some genuinely stunning original works of art. Whether you’re exploring a beautiful Chinese temple or playing as a little girl investigating a creepy abandoned house, Dreams ultimately shows off how amazing the gaming community is and how powerful this tool can be.
Dream Shaping introduces you to the creation tools that allow you to produce something from scratch or “remix” various projects into something that fits your own vision. Thankfully, there are a whole host of informative tutorials that guide you through every single process, including making music, animations, characters, scenes and everything in between. These courses range from beginner crash courses guiding you through movement and camera angles up to in-depth “Masterclasses”, that take everything you’ve learnt in a certain field and expand upon that to really polish up and refine your projects.
Instead of the ever-enigmatic Sackboy, this time around Dreams features unique mouse-pointers called Imps. These can be customized initially in a different colour but more varieties are unlocked along the way by completing specific tasks or unlocking a new level. Leveling up occurs through gaining experience points by completing tasks and interestingly, the colour of this visual level changes depending on what you’re working through. The tasks themselves range from relatively simple number games – complete 10 tutorials, Play and Like 75 levels – all the way through to visiting different players and remixing their work before sending it back to them. These are really nice incentives and encourage you to try all the different tools on offer.
What’s particularly exciting about Dreams though is the ability to remix and collaborate with other players. Whether it be grabbing a pre-made character and adding a couple of extra arms and a fire-breathing mechanic for good measure or remixing an existing project with new levels, the potential is there for a very interesting patchwork of talented Dreamers coming together and creating something magical. Think Minecraft players creating Middle Earth but bigger. For that reason alone, if you’re sold on the idea of Dreams, it’s a game that will inevitably have you coming back again and again throughout the year.
The controls are ultimately what let this game down though and even with these mapped to the dualshock, there’s still an element of frustration that comes from accidentally spinning a music timeline instead of zooming in or not quite getting the right angle on an animated platform thanks to the motion controls. While these can be undone with a quick flick of the direction button, I’d imagine some people will be turned away from this, especially those with experience playing around with software like Unity.
This ultimately brings back the big elephant in the room with this game – why choose Dreams over other powerful game creation software? Dreams is the perfect sandbox to test ideas, collaborate with others and produce the game of your dreams. Much like Minecraft and Roblox, Dreams is the sort of project that always has something to offer and all it takes is for one or two talented creators to produce something special and you’ll find yourself compelled to return.
The never-ending stream of content put out from players is ultimately what will make this product stand the test of time and with the ability to make literally anything, the future of Dreams is a very exciting prospect indeed. Whether the mainstream community will take to Dreams as enthusiastically as early adopters and critics remains to be seen but for now this software is certainly one of the best games of the year and unlike anything else on the market. The wait was absolutely worth it.
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Verdict - 9/10