Welcome to Dream Alone, a 2D side scrolling platformer which is sure to frustrate your soul. Every few weeks there seems to be a new indie game that everyone is playing or talking about. Indie games tend to be quirky, artistic and curious with beautiful scores and immense playability. Each brings its own unique flavor to gaming and Dream Alone makes a valiant effort to hit every target. Unfortunately, it would seem that the games aim is just a little off. Such a shame.
Dream Alone, developed by the team over at Warsaw Games and published by Fat Dog Games is actually quite interesting. You play as a young boy whose entire village and family fall deathly ill. The boy leaves the village to find lady death hoping that she would be able to save his family. A little kid on a quest to find death and resurrect his family, Morbid? Sure. Intriguing? You bet your ass.
Dream Alone is you standard 2D platformer. You run through the map dodging obstacles and solving puzzles in your quest for Death. All in aesthetically pleasing, Tim Burton-esk, black and white. What makes the game different though is the boy’s special powers. He unlocks the ability to slow time or shift to an alternate universe which overlaps with his own. These abilities prove essential to making it past some puzzles as timing and intuition are key to this kid’s survival.
The game looks beautiful. The art styles lends perfectly to the black and white coloring which only changes when the boy enters the other world. The backgrounds are beautifully detailed with hidden secrets to uncover and the entire theme is topped perfectly by the musical score. In theory Dream Alone should be a wonderful experience based on story and visuals alone but no such luck.
Being a switch game, the comfort to play on the go is great and the game handles Switch controls really well. Comfort aside though, Dream Alone is exceedingly frustrating to actually play and at times can feel unfair. The world is littered with traps and creatures out to kill you and some of them are almost impossible to see before it’s too late. It seems like this is why the character movements feel a bit sluggish, to give you a change to look carefully before you run. That said however, the feeling of successfully passing a difficult puzzle with those unholy tics only to die because you missed a small dot on the ground can easily drive you up a wall.
I for one chose to see these design choices for what they’re meant to be which is, quite obviously, a challenge. But here’s the thing. After dying in the same spot a few times a few things start rubbing your nerves raw. While the death visual is both fun yet jarring, having to go back and redo an entire run begins to feel tedious. Dying because you don’t exactly have control of your jumps is unsettling. Most of all though, the sluggish character movement which transitions into your every action easily feel to blame.
The thing is, I like Dream Alone a lot. Its plays as something designed to frustrate you. It challenges you to keep trying, be it to see how the twisted tale unfolds or just to metaphorically stick a finger in the face of Warsaw Games dev team and shout “HA!” The game can be rage inducing and as beautiful and interesting as it is, it’s not for everyone. If you’re prone to throwing things when you get angry, this game is definitely not for you. There are definitely more fun or exciting platformers out there and coming to the switch, but if you have the change and you’re looking for a novelty to add to your collection, Dream Alone is worthy of consideration.
The copy of Dream Alone used for this review was provided to us by it’s publisher, Fat Dog Games.