“And the memories of all we have loved stay and come back to us in the evening of our life. They are not dead but sleep, and it is well to gather a treasure of them.” – Vincent van Gogh
Developer: Hypnotic Ants
Released: 20th February 2020
Available on: Steam
A walking-simulator with puzzles, Dreamo is paradoxically both relaxing and frustrating. The game is set within disjointed memory fragments belonging to coma patient, Jack Winslow, a renowned pharmacologist who narrowly escaped a plane crash.
Taking on the role of Jack, the player must embark on a journey through his own subconscious, and with the assistance of Doctor Tara Moreau, recover his memories from the dreamscape. This manifests as a story-driven puzzle-adventure game featuring strange landscapes and interactive cube riddles.
Jack’s memories are locked inside artefacts, which are represented by three-dimensional cubes with misplaced gears. The player must reassemble the device in order to collect memory markers and allow dreamscape to evolve, eventually revealing the next area and set of memories. However, the cubes start to feature increasingly complex internal machinery, making the puzzles progressively difficult.
Each area features a collection of artefact cubes as well as a number of memories. Whilst the game as a whole is quite linear, each individual section has an open-world feel to it and allows the player to explore and solve puzzles at their leisure, adding to the relaxing nature of the experience. This was hindered somewhat by the vast amount of invisible walls, which not only got in the way of exploration but also broke the sense of immersion.
Unfortunately, while the puzzles are fun and challenging, and do add mechanics as the game progresses, there is not enough variety and things can start to get repetitive, as such it would probably be more enjoyable if played in shorter chunks.
Narrative and Styling
The game has a vibrant, low-poly art style depicting varied and surreal environments making the aesthetics one of the stand-out features of the game. This paired with the pleasantly mellow background music makes for a fairly relaxing overall experience.
Dreamo’s main storyline consists of three chapters and through the revelation of Jack’s memories it explores the theme of choice and consequence, and the impact people have on each others’ lives. The writing and voice acting were a great addition to the narrative focused elements of the game, adding a layer of emotion to the game but could have been better utilised to create intrigue. The protagonist, Jack, appears to voice every thought that he has, which along with Tara’s commentary, leaves very little for the player to deduce themselves.
During the puzzle sections, however, supposed hints were repetitive and patronising and were more irritating than helpful. For example, during one section, after finding a key, Tara helpfully exclaims “You need a key to open the gate“, doing nothing but pointing out the obvious.
Dreamo has a lot to offer, with entrancing visuals and challenging puzzles, but is not without flaws, most notably, the repetitive nature of the puzzles. The narrative is delivered largely via dialogue and while it felt oversimplified at times, it remained engaging. Overall, the game is an enjoyable and relaxing experience but perhaps one not designed for long play sessions.