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Game Maker Games - The Dreamworld
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Review by Joewoof
The Dreamworld is a mystifying, story-centered overhead action-adventure game (action RPG). You play as Erei, a depressed girl who is forever haunted by her past. She leads a life of constant pain and suffering - a life that she wants to escape from. And so, on one late afternoon, after a long day at school, she drifts off... into a slumber that she does not wake from. However, against her will, she finds herself in the midst of memories she wants to forget - in a strange "Dreamworld" where her greatest fears turn into reality.

In The Dreamworld, your task is to seek out monsters on each level and destroy them. Doing so gains you Fervor points. Getting enough Fervor points allows you to Sleep and dive further into the world. Higher Fervor also grants access to more powerful spells. Casting spells is the only way to fight in this game. A normal attack is not available. Spells cost TP (basically mana points), which slowly regenerates over time. A few powerups can restore your HP and TP. The overall gameplay concept is simple, but it is within the eerie atmosphere where the game shines.

(Warning. Spoilers below may be detrimental to your experience with this game. Read on at your own discretion.)

= Attraction =

Lacking.

While the game has a fairly interesting story concept, the direction of the graphics lacks any professionalism. Right from the start, with the opening logo, the game appears very "amateurish" through the use of a nova filter. The title page uses red color for its menu items, which clashes with the background (in this case, white is more fitting). The design of the HUD (heads-up-display) is uninspired and lacks any aesthetic appeal. The message displays are bland. Worse, the sprites in general are fuzzy and absolutely tiny, which makes it difficult to draw more attention to the game via screenshots.

Fortunately, through its good selection of background music, the game does successfully draw the player into its hazy world.

= Variety =

Good.

The main focus of the gameplay is within the spells. There is a good number of different magic skills separated into three categories. "Basic Skills" are made up of offensive spells. "Healing Skills" are self-explanatory. "Wrath Skills" are powerful spells designed to destroy large masses of monsters and combat bosses. In each category, you have a choice between several spells, each having different tactical uses. You gain about one new spell per level, which keeps the game interesting.

The environment into which you use the spells is quite dull, however. Each level is almost exactly the same as the previous. Each is basically a vast open field, where monsters often materialize or emerge from the ground in hidden locations.

The monsters themselves, on the other hand, offer enough variety. They range from what seems like killer tree roots to terminator beach benches. Most monsters appear quite suddenly, leading to a number of pleasant surprises. This strong unpredictability generates a degree of tension throughout the game, which forces the players to be on their toes.

= Depth =

Fair.

While the story starts off as very thought-provoking very early on, it fails to retain that as the game progresses. Ultimately, partly due to the short length of the game, the story ultimately becomes disappointing, ending without conveying strong messages that one usually expects from this type of story. Not far into the game, the story diminishes from a very original battle against oneself to a very generic battle against evil forces. As a result, the depth of the story suffers.

The strategic element of this game is fairly strong, even though it is poorly presented. You have to constantly refer back to help window to view spell descriptions, but even those are often vague, leaving much to trial and error. Figuring out the best spell to use in certain situations is absolutely crucial to beating this game, especially considering that it is very difficult and that TP is very limited.

Upon completion, you can purchase several unlockables, such as new gameplay modes. This adds a good amount of replayability to the game. The "Slow Mode", however, is completely pointless, as the gameplay already generally feels slow, due to the framerate.

= Originality =

Fair.

Lately, there is an abundance of (often surreal) games taking place in dreams. The concept borders on overusage, but "The Dreamworld" itself feels just distinctive enough. Perhaps, that is because the protagonist has a decent background, unlike most similar games where a random, non-descript protagonist enters a dream. Here, there are strong reasons why it occurs. The few twists thrown into the story are not particularly impressive, but within the context of "The Dreamworld", they do help to make the world feel a little more unique.

As for gameplay, this action RPG puts a spin on the traditional style of the genre. In most action RPGs, the majority of the action lies within using normal attacks. As said earlier, this game completely eliminates the use of the "normal attack" and places the focus entirely on spell casting. Unfortunately, even this isn't a new idea in this community, but it does separate the game from other generic overhead action games.

= Smooth Learning Curve =

Lacking.

This game places its instructions within its help window and does not present any of it in-game. This may trip a number of players at the beginning, but the game is not very complicated enough for this to be a major problem.

The game fails to present a number of crucial information. How your progress is saved, in particular, is not told. After completing each level, the game automatically saves your progress, but there is no notice saying so. As for the spells you use, the descriptions given are vague. The damages that the spells do, which is important in this game, are not indicated anywhere, leaving the player to go through a process of trial-and-error. Considering that TP is very limited, trial-and-error is not suited for this game to begin with. Adding insult to injury, many spells may appear deceptively weak even through extensive trial-and-error, leading you to apply less effective tactics.

= Flow =

Horrible.

The concept of "having to fight within a large battlefield where groups of enemies are hidden" creates a degree of unpredictability, but at the same time, it causes disruptions of the game flow. No direction is given when you enter a new level, leaving you to wander in search of enemies. Once you destroy a group of enemies, there is additional downtime where you have to wander in search of another hidden group. In larger levels, this process may quickly become tedious. Late into a level, you may have to spend a long time wandering endlessly looking for the last groups of enemies to fight.

The flow is also disrupted when you gain a new spell. This is because you are not told which spell you've gotten, meaning that you have to waste time browsing through all three categories of spells. Once you know what you've gotten, you have to open the help window to see what it does. However, as described earlier, the descriptions are too vague. Ultimately, you have to rely on experimentation, which increases your risk of dying and restarting the level.

Due to its high level of difficulty, you are likely to die often in this game. This is not a big problem if it were not for the fact that you are forced to watch the slow opening logo every time and reload your save. The logo cannot be skipped.

Your limited TP also ruins the flow, since you sometimes have to wait ages for it to slowly recharge.

= Modulated Challenge =

Lacking.

This game starts off really hard. It is possible to die from the very first monster you encounter. The game then climbs steeply and peaks at the first boss battle, which is unbeatable unless you figure out which is your most powerful spell at that point. The difficulty climbs steeply again, until you fight the last boss, which is ironically the easiest battle in the game.

Generally, the game is very difficult, since TP is very limited. This can be alleviated by better introducing the roles of each spell, but this unfortunately is not the case. Extending the length of the game may better smooth out the Difficulty Curve, which is, at the moment, poorly structured.

= Immersion =

Lacking.

As said before, the graphics within this game are too small. Some monsters in the forest levels are almost invisible. Coupled with the low framerate, the game appears "detachful", since you seem to be so far away from the action. Some of the spell effects are interesting, but overall, the quality of the graphics is not very good.

The sounds used within this game are choppy and often painfully loud, compared to the music. Either the volume of sounds must be greatly reduced or the volume of the background music must be greatly raised.

It is the music that infused this game with life that it otherwise lacks. Most of the ones used are effective. One in particular is purposefully disturbing, which is good for the strange level it is used.

The plot of the story is just effective enough to drive you forward. Sadly, it becomes less and less interesting as you progress through the game. When the story starts to become more generic, it also becomes more predictable.

= Polish =

Fair.

This game suffers from a number of glaring technical problems. The most obvious one is the mouse cursor. It is not set to invisible during the game. There are some grammatical errors in the dialogue. And finally, the controls are awkward. Having to browse through spells in three categories using 3 keys while running from the enemy may easily become frustrating.

Though obvious, these problems are not very serious.

= Overall =

Lacking.

The Dreamworld is an eerie action RPG that has good potential, but is held back by poor presentation and execution of its features. A few players may like it, but most are likely to become frustrated by its vague instructions and high difficulty.

That said, this game is still definitely worth a try.

~ Joewoof

Download The Dreamworld (EXE, ~2.04 MB , Content caution )

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Recommendations: The 3 people who like The Dreamworld also like the following games.
Comments (Add your own):
2008.05.04 Corruption
Rating: 9

Great game. Challenging and fun. The reviewer makes it sound terrible, though! >:(
2006.10.01 kingkid15
Rating: 6

This game was fun (a 9) at first, but then i got boring (a 6).
2006.09.25 Kafeithekeaton
Rating: --

Nah, she's not a lesbian. Play the game and there's evidence against that. :P
2006.09.24 Phreak
Rating: --

That girl's a goth, I bet shes a lesbian too.
2006.09.05 VGFox
Rating: 7

Pretty cool. It's intresting to see you make something serious, as opposed to say... Drink Tea or Die.
2006.06.06 Aboriginal
Rating: 8

This is a very fun game, but it's very hard. It's also really annoying when you die because you must view the starting credits again before loading your previous state. I would recommend giving it a shot, and spending some time on it. It really does make you want to give up several times but each new level is a challenge waiting for you. I feel this game deserves a 8/10. Very good game, Kafeithekeaton.
2006.06.01 Kafeithekeaton
Rating: --

Sorry, that's an old version I posted. Try this backup... It doesn't have the glitches.
http://rapidshare.de/files/21978259/TheDreamworld.zip.html
2006.05.31 Aboriginal
Rating: --

The link is broken. Please let me know when you fix it, because this sounds cool
2006.05.31 Kafeithekeaton
Rating: --

It's not broken, I just temporarily exceeded my allowed bandwidth. When it's down though, try

http://rapidshare.de/files/21820454/TheDreamworld.zip.html
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