Part Inception, part The Witness, part Driver: San Francisco, Hypnotic Ants’ Dreamo is a labyrinth of intricately woven puzzles that slowly unravel the memories trapped within your comatose state, leading to revelations aplenty, all begun with the domino of a plane crash and a deserted island – nobody in sight.
Oddly enough, despite it being Dreamo’s hook, line and sinker, the puzzles are the game’s weakest element. To sum them up, you’re given boxes that hold key memories, and to unlock said cubes, you have to slot cogs and play around with the pegs which move when the cube is rotated, letting you fiddle around with different gears. This is, as expected, fairly one-note, and so it gets monotonous and repetitive incredibly fast, no matter how much the complexity gets amped up.
Toppled with the solving of puzzles best being done through trial and error and sheer random placing and that sense of satisfaction derived from overcoming a tough hurdle is somewhat shaved down since, in all likelihood, you’re going to be stumbling through, solving puzzles by mistake. Luckily, the narrative and atmosphere manage to incentivize pushing forward, so even with arduous challenges blocking the way, it’s not all bleak.
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Story / Personality
Things start off with a plane crash and a desert island and a revelation that you, Jack, are in a coma, with an unknown person guiding your hand to unlocking your lost memories and clawing your way back into consciousness. It’s not quite the dream-diving action-packed spectacle of Nolan’s sci-fi romp, but the idea of meddling with the dream-state is there and as captivating as ever.
Weirdly enough, the conversations take the form of floating text messages which is somewhat jarring, given that this isn’t a game in which the dialogue is represented by grunts or what-have-you but instead it is a game where the dialogue is realized by voice actors who do a fairly good job at capturing the emotional pressure bearing down on Jack and the ambiguous motives of Dr Moreau.
Graphics / Art Direction
Blocky shapes, minimalistic cartoon-y aesthetic and a definite feel of Unreal Engine – Dreamo isn’t anything standout or special when it comes to its graphic fidelity – in fact, I’d go as far as to say that you’ve likely seen a fair few indies with similar visuals, so generic would be the perfect word for them. That being said, the art direction is where they stand out, as despite the techniques and technical graphic elements being bog-standard, the actual locations and world are built up with fantastic attention to detail.
Final Score: 63%
There’s a wealth of puzzle games to play on the Switch – there’s certainly love for the genre. So, if you’re an enthusiast, Dreamo will most likely be an enjoyable time well-spent, especially with the addition of an engrossing story layered overtop, but for more casual fans, finding something to enjoy about Dreamo’s gameplay will be an uphill battle given how repetitive and overly-complicated it can get. It’s not exactly a rewarding experience- it’s more frustrating.
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