|Dev: Cockroach Inc.|
|Pub: Cockroach Inc.|
|Release: October 31, 2011 (Chapter 3)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
The Dream Machine is pretty brief. There are five chapters planned, and at the time of this writing, three of those chapters are available to play. If you're good at puzzle-solving, you should be able to get through all three chapters in a few hours. Now, it's unfortunate that you probably won't be tempted to play this game over and over, but the feeling the game leaves you with lingers for quite some time. In fact, you might find yourself pondering this strange little title days later.
Every character has an intriguing personality, and getting to explore physical representations of their dreams brings an added layer of mystery to each one. (Why does every person in Alicia's dream look exactly like Victor? Why is Mr. Morton's dream filled with crumbling statues?) The Dream Machine even briefly touches on some philosophical musings, presented subtly enough through individual characters that you'll be left to figure out the implications on your own.
The Dream Machine takes an interesting approach to distribution. Players can experience the entire first chapter for free, then decide whether to plop down money for the full package at once or buy each chapter piecemeal. I do have to admit, though, that the first chapter seems a bit shorter than the others so far, and its puzzles aren't as deep. Instead, Chapter 1 introduces players to the characters and the idea of being inside dreams. (There's an all-too-brief opening segment that shows you Victor's strange dream.) I promise the game only gets better from here. The puzzle aspects really come into their own in Chapter 2, and Chapter 3 begins an entire subplot that has you trying to solve the mysterious disappearance of a Victor clone. Story-wise, the first three chapters offer more questions than answers, though there are answers to be found here, especially in Chapter 2. I can only have faith that the next two chapters will reveal enough to satisfy those of us who are in it for the long haul, yet leave players with quite a bit to think about.
If you have any interest at all in point-and-click games, or need a powerful defense in the "games as art" debate, you should definitely check out The Dream Machine. The first chapter is completely free, so you don't have a whole lot to lose. (Besides time, of course, as you might get addicted to this strange little world and its bizarre characters.) The whole game is a thoughtful endeavor that scratches at deep human truths while offering some thought-provoking puzzles and a good story to boot. You might even find it creeping into your dreams…
CCC Editor / Contributing Writer