The Dream Machine is point and click adventure game by Cockroach Inc. It is created in an episodic format, the first chapter of the game was released in December of 2010 and the final episode was released in May of 2017, at lease they delivered unlike HL3.
Victor Neff is the protagonist of the game. He and his pregnant wife recently moved to this apartment only to find things…. weird.
Felix Morton is the caretaker and the landlord of the apartment complex. He is shady and his family is behind the creation of the Dream Machine.
The Dream Machine is the titular villain of the game. It is a sentient machine that took the apartment over.
Victor and Alicia Neff moved into this rather shady grungy apartment to start their great life. But on day one, things go wrong, turns out there is a thing called Dream Machine in the building that is messing with residents of the apartment and Victor has to save his family and his neighbors.
This is your standard point and click adventure game. You go around clicking on every pixel of the screen until something in your brain clicks and solve the puzzle.
Dialogue options are there, but they barely make any difference since there is only one right way to proceed the game.
The biggest problem for me regarding the Dream Machine was its atmosphere. Throughout the whole game I had no idea what I was suppose to be feeling. Was I suppose to be scared, be tense, be laughing, or be confused. I think this results from the game not knowing what it wants to be. There are really gory moments in this game, there are sexual contents, but they are presented in the same way as fetching some food or seeing a person dying. This lack of direction made me feel empty rather than… what I was suppose to feel.
By far, Chapter 5 was the worst of the bunch. It was way longer than any of the previous chapters. If interesting puzzles or story made up for its length, sure, but they did not. Chapter 5 had the least interesting story until that point and all of the puzzles were nothing more than fetch quests. To make it worse, the maps in this chapter were huge and you had to navigate between reality with 2 different dreams. Let me tell you what I mean:
To solve one puzzle, you start at one end of Dream A and go through 7-8 areas to get to the exit, queue leaving dream sequence and watch the protag comment something, remove helmet from Dreamer A and go to the apartment next door, enter Dream B, queue entering dream sequence, shrink yourself with an item, go through like 3 areas, grab item, go back 3 areas, use item to enlarge yourself, leave Dream B, queue leaving dream sequence, go back to Dreamer A and enter her dream, queue enter dream sequence, go through 8 areas. Now repeat this.
Chapter 5 had too large of a map that did nothing but add screens to travel through, it had puzzles of minimal consequences and I think could’ve been better with shorter missions. Chapter 5 felt needlessly complicated and lasted way too long. I was so bored by the end of this chapter, something the previous chapters avoided by condensing all of the interesting things into a shorter package. Chapter 5 tried to go big and failed miserably.
There are dialogue options in this game, but I don’t really know why. There is only one way to beat the game, as everything else is… not possible. In something like Telltale Games or visual novels, or even Persona games, dialogue choices have consequences from losing a friend, getting someone killed, or marrying wrong girl. But here, it’s just there to move along the very linear story set for you.
Being a clay-mation game, Dream Machine suffers from awkward animation and unintentional creepiness. Pre-scripted movements in the game are animated fluidly, they look great. But when the player tells Victor to move, it looks real clunky, this is further accentuated when the fluid scripted motion is juxtaposed by the player input movements. And the scariest looking character in the entire game is your loving wife… she looks absolutely terrifying.
Despite what I said above, the game is Visually distinct. You will not find a game that looks like this. Clay models in gaming are rare and for those models to have such a eerie design was great, again, the wife looks terrifying. The crudeness of how the models look does add to creepy vibe of the game, just that its narrative sometimes clash with it.
Chapter 4 is my favorite of the bunch. Here, emotion is core of the story as you look into the hardships and life of an old dying lady. You become a bystander of this person’s past, and the subtle sadness she faced. It was a great and emotional chapter. Unlike some of the other chapters, the visuals, the scenes, and the mechanic all work together to tell one sad tale, I wish more of the game was like this.
Some of the puzzles in the game were fantastic. I am not usually a big puzzle person, I usually think they are a hassle. But I started to look forward to puzzles in this game. Sure, I wasn’t happy every single time, but I had fun.
- Will I play this again? Probably not, it was fun the first time around but I don’t think there is anything I really want to revisit. If anything, maybe a segment on Youtube.
- Do I recommend it? Definitely. You don’t see a lot of games being done in clay and cardboard, and this does add to the atmosphere of the game.
The first 4 chapters were a blast to play through, but starting chapter 5, things start to feel like they are dragging out too long and the puzzles become a hassle rather than an exciting obstacle.
Seeing that the first episode and the last episode were 7 years apart, I’m glad I found about this game only after the whole thing was complete.
If you’ve played it, let me know what you thought. If you haven’t are you interested in trying this out?