iPhone App Video Review: dream:scape

Jun 10, 2011

Dream:scape is an app developed by speedbump, with gorgeous graphics and a touching story powered by the Unreal Engine. Some people will tout this as a storytelling master piece while others will call it less of a game and more like a tech demo with a story thrown in. Let’s find out which camp you sit in, shall we?

The first thing you see is a short and beautiful cut-scene with a doctor and nurse speaking about a brain dead patient. That patient is named Wilson, and he is the character you play as throughout the game. In some kind of strange limbo between life and death, he enters his dreamscape, which is a mishmash of memories of the place he grew up. It’s your quest to unlock all your dark secrets and make peace with your past. I really wanted to review this on my iPad, but it would not load past the first cut-scene, which is a shame.

As you can see, the controls are extremely simple. The only thing you can do is walk and look around. The gameplay, if you can call walking gameplay, consists of finding items to get past obstacles in your way. There are usually things guarding your memories, such as dogs, vultures, and even an evil car. As you unlock memories, they are added to your diary which serves as something of a map to the game. This really does seem more like a tech demo with a story, very much like Castlerama or Epic Citadel. The only time it becomes real gameplay is when passing each obstacle. You are required to perform very brief quick time event battles against them, swiping the screen in the indicated direction.

The graphics are absolutely gorgeous, and some of the best I’ve ever seen on a mobile device, but it’s more than just detail. The developers of the app spent a lot of time creating a specific atmosphere, and at times a great tension as you learn about the past of the protagonist. The environment reflects the characters inner turmoil by getting darker and more chaotic as you unlock these memories. The music played punctuates all the memories and makes them even more unforgettable. You really begin to feel for Wilson and what he went through as you near the end of his journey. The voice performances are simple, but make all the characters seem real and sympathetic, for the most part.

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So basically, this is really more of a big interactive story than a true game. The real game-like sequences aren’t done very well, and can lead to frustration towards the end. The whole thing only took me a few hours to complete, but there were times when I was absolutely stuck on where to go and what to do. The game doesn’t offer much guidance, and is more about exploration.

In the end, I will hold this up as a must buy for only two dollars, simply because I love a good story, and I love the idea of games as art. And hey, you didn’t do much other than walk in Myst and Riven either, and they are some of the greats. But if you prefer to go shoot things, there’s nothing wrong with that. Check this one out, but don’t expect it to be something it’s not.

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Andrew Koziara

Andrew Koziara is a lifelong gamer and metal head. When he isn’t playing or reviewing games, he’s making them at Tribeca Flashpoint Academy. Check out his Twitter page here.

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