It’s safe to say Media Molecule took its time while it worked on its latest creative extravaganza, Dreams. After a reveal that seems like forever ago now, Dreams was long in incubation. Following a lengthy beta period, Dreams is finally available. Boy was it worth the wait. So much of the conversation around Dreams centered on what it actually was, and what it could be. Now we know; it’s actually everything. Following MM’s own Little Big Planet, Dreams is a space to create a game of your own. An infinite realm of genres, experiences and mechanics, packing gorgeous visuals and a community platform built to last.
In case my describing it as “everything” didn’t make it abundantly clear, Dreams is really hard to talk about. This is because any time spent with it is enitrely subjective. You could lose hours exploring the dense library of user creations. What the community has already come up with is often as inventive as it is jawdropping. We have seen games like this in the past — Microsoft’s now defunct Project Spark is a prime example — that offered many of the same creative liberties. Dreams adds gorgeous visuals and intuitive creative mechanics on top. In this way, it is the most stylish and attractive of the lot.
A dream is a wish your heart makes
The Dreams experience exists across two modes. The first is where you can play the creations of other users by exploring an extensive online library. The other allows you to create experiences of your own. As previously mentioned, this is a completely subjective experience. Your time is your own — spend it however you want. Some Super Mario Maker players only play levels made by others. Some spend all their time creating. The same is true here: you are quite literally free to make of Dreams what you want.
Nothing in Dreams goes unnoticed, and everyone has a purpose; every creation has an audience, and every audience a creation. Players should explore the full range of experiences on offer. Thanks to a lengthy beta testing period, Dreams has launched with an incredibly dense library. To give you some perspective, my first few hours in Dreams were spent running around a small open world as Super Mario (complete with authentic sound effects) to exploring the infamous Black Lodge from Twin Peaks in first person, to running through a miniature Lara Croft: Tomb Raider adventure, all the way to an eerily accurate recreation of the infamous P.T. demo. As you can imagine, the quality of each experience is subject to the creativity, ability and dedication of the creator. But the fact that these experiences even exist is simply amazing in its own right.
Show me how to dream
If you must play something to introduce you to the depth of Dreams, it’s Art’s Dream. Created by Media Molecule itself, Art’s Dream is a two-hour point and click adventure about a musician racing against time on a journey of discovery and redemption; all before he wakes up from his dream. It’s a powerful and emotional adventure that had me invested all the way through. Consider it an unofficial story mode of sorts, but a memorable entry to say the least, and one you should not miss.
Let me tell you about this dream I had
Dreams also allows you to create and share your own experiences with other users. I would classify Dreams as easy to learn, hard to master. Most of what you’ll use to craft your worlds and experiences can be collected from playing through the creations of others. Be it character models, shapes, textures, and environments. The only limit is your own imagination. Keep in mind some mechanics such as character model movement and actions are already mapped out for you as a matter of convenience. The creation tools relies on ideas much more than it does specific programming.
I did find building to be a little tricky at first due to the controls, as you navigate through a space using the left and right analogue sticks, while moving objects within a space using motion controls. These motion controls extend far beyond building, but prove useful once you get used to them. I like to think of myself as a creative person, but in comparison to the experiences I’ve played, I’m starting to think otherwise. Thankfully, uploading these worlds is just as easy and seamless as playing them. It’s admittedly hard to describe just how the dream-building works, but rest assured, it’s accessible, incredibly deep, and continuously growing, in terms of both your experience and various collectible items which can be used to flesh out your creations.
Dreams is presented very much like a dream. With abstract visuals and an incredibly intuitive menu design, it’s an absolute pleasure to navigate the many corridors that Dreams lays out for you. Upon starting the game, players are made to choose an Imp, a magical fairy-like ball of fur that allows you to interact with your surroundings. After an incredibly clever tutorial, Dreams leaves you with your Imp to explore, as you move them around with the DualShock 4’s motion controls. It feels incredibly intuitive given the amount of time you spend with them, and as most motion controls are a gimmick to say the least, this was a pleasant surprise.
Cap it all off with a stirring score, and Dreams becomes in an experience that’s as engaging and pleasurable to be in as it is to explore and play. Light RPG elements add to the fun, leveling you up as you play through the game in your own way, rewarding you with goodies and collectible items for almost everything you do, and never criticising or punishing you for spending too much time in one aspect of the game.
Overall, Dreams is one of the hardest experiences to encapsulate in words, as it proves to be an ever-evolving platform of creation and inspiration. Within Dreams lies all the depth and tools required to make something moving, engaging, powerful, and most of all, fun. Crafting dreams can be a little tricky at first, but I soon fell in love with everything this experience had to offer. There is honestly so much to do in Dreams it can make your head spin, but when all is said and done, we absolutely have a winner on our hands. Thankfully, you don’t have to be asleep to experience these Dreams.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Highlights: Incredible depth and variety; Gorgeous Presentation; Art’s Dream
Lowlights: Creation tools can take time to learn
Developer: Media Molecule
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation 4
Review conducted on Playstation 4 with a retail code provided by the publisher.