From indie developers Cockroach INC, comes a new game that contributes to the revival of the point-and-click genre. Though this genre of games has been pretty much absent from view for over a decade, ‘The Dream Machine’ gives an accurate representation of the core values that point-and-click games were founded on. This game redefines interactive entertainment with an exceptional approach to artistic style and a plot that casts players into the beauty and terror of the sleeping mind as the dreams held within become a reality.
Using a point-and-click style of gameplay, ‘The Dream Machine’ takes on a classic approach to the genre with absolute simplicity in mind. All that is required of players is a keen attention to detail and the ability to use problem solving techniques to overcome the difficult puzzles that are presented to them.
To interact with the environment, players simply move their cursor to the place or item of interest and click on on that location. The protagonist will then move to that spot and respond accordingly. Items that are acquired can be viewed and accessed from the drop-down inventory that is located at the top of then screen. This gives very easy and quick use to the multitudes of items that players will come across. Once in the inventory, some items can be combined or manipulated to create a new one that is needed for a current objective.
Players can approach other characters in the game and speak in a text-based conversation. While conversing with another character, the game features an interactive dialogue system that gives players a choice to pick between a few conversation options. Each option will have a varying effect on the outcome of the conversation and how the investigation will play out.
Being an investigative mystery game, players will collect items, study clues and riddles, and talk to other characters before they will be able to conclude an investigation. When aiming to interpret a code or clarify a riddle, I was left with nothing more than the objects in the environment and my own problem solving skills. What I noticed about the game is that most clues and objectives aren’t always blatantly obvious. This gives players the opportunity to personally unravel the enigma that is currently at hand.
I was constantly tested with puzzles that are both challenging and clever. Urged to “think outside of the box,” I had to consider the most unconventional uses for items and also take notice of the smallest, most discreet clues that are concealed within other items or throughout the environment.
In a particular situation, I had found myself in the midst of my wife’s dream and was living amongst the crew of a vacation cruise ship. Strange occurrences had sent the crew in a panic and it was up to me to dig my way to the bottom of the case. What was especially odd about this ship was that all of my shipmates were exact clone of myself, each assigned a number to distinguish one from the other.
After a bit of investigating, I began to uncover the diabolical truth of what was taking place behind the scenes. Making my way to the root of the mystery, I had to put in quite a bit of effort on my own behalf. Repeatedly interviewing suspects and crew members had led to me to new clues and information that had to be assessed. At one point, I had found an unfinished note that consisted of a variety of scrapped letters that were completely out of order. I had to manipulate the letters to make words before I could decode the note and understand what it was exactly that the author was trying to get across. Other tasks such as making mixed drinks with limited supplies and gaining access to restricted areas were amongst my agenda in order for me to interpret the secrets of the ship. In a specific task, I had to think of a way to find an alternative to tomato juice.
I am the type of gamer who takes time to fully absorb what the game has to offer. ‘The Dream Machine’ really challenges players to perform a thorough investigation before advancing to the next segment. In some cases, I found myself tinkering with the various objects in my inventory, repeatedly attempting and correcting my hypothesis to solve a puzzle or decipher a code. Of the episodes that have been released thus far, each has taken me between 1 hour and 30 minutes to 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete. The length of each episode really depends on how fast the player can make sense of the clues that they have uncovered.
The story literally captures the mind of the characters as players delve deep into their dreams. The whole story revolves around a mysterious apartment complex and the peculiar tenants and landlord who inhabit it. At a first glance, nothing is really out of the ordinary, other than the fact that everyone seems to be having strange dreams. As players move into the depths of the secrets held within, things become apparent that this isn’t any ordinary place.
Players will control the protagonist, Victor Neff, who had recently moved into the apartment complex with his wife. They only wished to start a new and better beginning, but were greeted with more than they had bargained for. It doesn’t take long for Victor to realize that something isn’t right about the place, especially when a video camera is discovered in a hidden compartment behind a painting that overlooks his bed. Upset like any other violated person would be, he decides to confront the landlord, Mr. Morton.
A BOAT beneath a sunny sky,
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July —……
Ever drifting down the stream —
Lingering in the golden gleam —
Life, what is it but a dream?”
As the plot unfolds, Victor unearths a hidden basement where an atrocious machine dwells. Victor learns that this machine thrives off the dreams of its victims, controlling and holding them in a state of everlasting slumber. Soon realizing the machine’s purpose, Victor embarks on a dark and chilling journey into the dreams of his neighbors to put a stop to the machine and awaken its victims.
I found the story to be overflowing with imagination as it fully immersed me into a world where I had to really think my way out. As the plot thickened, there were occasional twists and turns in the that aroused suspicion and created a feeling of suspense and curiosity. As each new discovery revealed shocking information leading to the conclusion of the investigation, it became increasingly difficult for me to walk away from my computer until I had completely exposed the truth.
The characters and environments are well-detailed and compliment an incredibly talented development team. Each and every character, environment, and item were created entirely by hand and exhibit a fancy, out of the ordinary style. Using stop-motion animation, the artists at Cockroach INC painstakingly captured the animations frame-by-frame in order to bring the game to life. I was absolutely awe-struck at the intricate designs and how nothing more than clay and cardboard could be the only two recipes for something so magnificent.
With the recent comeback of the genre, ‘The Dream Machine’ is easily one of the most enjoyable and original point-and-click games to date. As of now, 3 of 5 episodes in the series are available, leaving me to eagerly await the next two, which are planned to be released periodically throughout the next several months. The game can be purchased by episode or as a package deal with current and future episodes at the official website or via Steam.