Dream Chronicles: review

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  • Format: 360 (version reviewed), PS3, PC, Mac, DS, Mobile
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: KatGames
  • Developer: PlayFirst
  • Players: 1-2
  • Site: www.playfirst.com/dream-chronicles

Dream Chronicles is a bad game even by the low standards its genre aspires to. Hidden object games are already the red-headed step-child of adventure games, and this one is best kept locked up in the attic.

The game doesn’t give a good first impression either – ugly menus, mouse arrow navigation – Dream Chronicles on Xbox 360 reeks of a quick PC port. When you get into the actual game it’s not much better. Soft, indistinct visuals don’t do a pixel-hunting game any favours, and the controls make the tedious puzzle-solving physically exhausting.

The basic goal of Dream Chronicles is to move from room to room, poking around behind shelves and underneath furniture for various items. It’s usually a multi-step process that involves a tiny bit of logic and deduction on the part of the player. The brief moments where the game makes you think can be fun, but once you have the solution it’s all too often back to relentless pointing and clicking.

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There’s definitely some simple joy in finding trinkets. It hits the same pleasure point in the brain as collecting things in Mario. The problem is that Dream Chronicles doesn’t do anything to capitalise on this. The collectibles are largely relegated to optional jewels, and the key items – which are almost all part of some completely nonsensical puzzle – are either in plain sight or hidden beneath poor scripting.

The biggest nail in the coffin is that even if a solution is obvious, you can be stumped by poor game design. In one puzzle, a loose floorboard clearly needed to be pried open, but it isn’t until you find the other pieces of the puzzle that a crowbar appears out of thin air. If there were any context for anything going on in this game, maybe this kind of lame hand-holding would be a bit more acceptable.

There’s a plot to be found in Dream Chronicles, but it never bears consequence in the actual gameplay. It’s an odd, potentially interesting story of fairies and magic, but its ultimately just a random piece of fiction slapped onto a string of environments. The story could have been about a dolphin that becomes unstuck in time and it wouldn’t have mattered.

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That the game offers achievements for completing it in under 30 minutes is telling, though you probably won’t want to play it much longer than the 1-2 hours it’ll take the first time. As Dream Chronicles wears on, its idea of challenge becomes inventory management. It starts introducing far more items than you can carry, forcing you to tediously pluck and place objects from the inventory. The idea of repeating those puzzles over again, even with a friend in co-op mode, is nearly unbearable.

Everything about Dream Chronicles feels slapped together and uninspired. With no cohesive hook keeping the game consistent with itself it ultimately feels like a lame attempt to bait the casual crowd. It’s too bad, because you get the impression there might have been some heart and soul behind it. Dream Chronicles is, if anything, a stepping stone to a much better game; but nothing you should waste your money on.

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Written by Joe D

Inspired by a love for obscure Sega Saturn games in the 90s, Joe is pretty much open to anything gaming has to offer. What he looks for in a game: creativity and strong design, or sometimes just an overwhelming sense of style.

One comment

  1. Games like this certainly don’t help a dying genre…

    Thanks for the review.

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