By Marty Mulrooney
The Dream Machine is a point-and-click adventure game handcrafted from clay and cardboard by Cockroach Inc., a two-man independent Swedish game development studio. Following on from Chapters 1-3 (“not only a game about dreams, but a dream come true for adventure gamers”) and Chapter 4 (“inspired point-and-click storytelling from a small indie studio with big ideas and even bigger dreams”), this penultimate chapter sees Victor continuing his quest to save his pregnant wife and defeat The Dream Machine once and for all.
The Dream Machine: Chapter 5 begins exactly where the previous chapter left off. Much like Chapter 4, it’s a cold start – there is no recap video or text synopsis of what’s happened so far. Of course, this won’t be a problem once the game is 100% complete and all 6 chapters have been released, but for someone playing the game chapter by chapter – with large gaps between each release – it could be slightly confusing.
The beautiful handcrafted graphics have one downside and that’s production time. Chapter 5 was released on the 14th of November 2014, making this review more than a little bit late to the party. Regardless, Chapter 4 was released over a year before Chapter 5 and it certainly wouldn’t have done any harm to have a quick recap. Chapter 6 is still in the pipeline nearly a year and a half later…
With that one small nitpick out of the way, we can now get to the good stuff! After finding your bearings (hint: head down to the lobby), it becomes apparent that there are two more neighbours left in Victor’s apartment building that need to be knocked out so he can dive into their dreams. The first is Mr Willard, whose dream-world consists of virtual rooms and platforms inside a void of nothingness.
It’s perhaps the toughest set of puzzles the series has seen yet, like a mixture of Tron and Alice in Wonderland. After messing about with futuristic lasers, Victor eventually finds a way to shrink himself and the objects he carries, adding a whole new dimension to the puzzles. Frustration soon gives way to satisfaction as solutions click into place and the once insurmountable is effortlessly overcome.
The second neighbour is called Selma and her dream-world is much more traditional in nature… upon first glance. Taking place in a magical forest, it isn’t long before Victor hears of an organ thief that has been terrorising the world’s inhabitants and stealing various body parts and organs. This doesn’t appear to be a normal part of Selema’s subconscious, hinting that the dream machine is fighting back against Victor’s previous attacks. From this point onwards, finding the organ thief becomes priority number one.
Once the chapter finds its groove, the puzzles come thick and fast. A mixture of logic and inventory based head-scratchers, they’re well designed and seldom feel unfair. The only niggle is when the game doesn’t do the best job of pointing you in the right direction to begin with – the lack of walkthroughs available online (YouTube aside) makes it important to always pay attention. Thankfully, when a difficult puzzle is figured out, it’s usually with a smile and a shake of the head as you realise the answer was right there in front of you all along.
So far so good, but where Chapter 4 really excels (length aside – this is the longest chapter yet) is how it takes the successful formula of the previous chapters and twists it. You can’t figure out all of the puzzles in either dreamscape without somehow taking items from one into the other. The solution? That would be telling… but it’s creepy, highly imaginative and a lot of fun! The game really comes together once this barrier has been broken. It’s very satisfying to return to previous locations and puzzles with a new sense of purpose and power.
The graphics are still exquisite and the writing charming – more than making up for the lack of voice acting. I only experienced one crash, but the game autosaves frequently so no progress was lost. The ending is brilliant, offering a twist that should have been obvious but wasn’t at all. It promises great things to come from the final chapter. The Dream Machine: Chapter 5 is a gorgeous adventure game that is quite unlike anything else the genre has to offer at the moment. If you haven’t played The Dream Machine yet, what are you waiting for? With only one chapter left to go, this is the perfect time to dive in!
8 OUT OF 10