Explore and play in an ever-expanding Dreamiverse bursting with games, music, art and everything in-between and beyond.
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Reviewed on: PS4 (Pro unit)
Cast: Sophie Okonedo, Ray Panthaki, Gemma Whelan, Alexis Rodney, Daphne Alexander, Rachel John, Jonathan Forbes, Ako Mitchell, Lachele Carl, Nathan Osgood, Laila Pyne, Kit Connor, Rosie Boore
Developer: Media Molecule
Creative Director: Mark Healey
Narrative Artist: Emei Olivia Burell
Technical Director: David Smith
Art Director: Kareem Ettouney
When I was in High School and I discovered the assortment of free video-editing tools available online with tutorials. I paired those with my phone and webcam and started making movies. It was a liberating period because until then I always thought you needed much more expensive gear and programs to do anything like I was teaching myself. Join that with the start of Youtube and I was joining other like-minded people online for the first time being able to watch and create in a way that hadn’t been possible before. Dreams from Media Molecule reminds me heavily of that period of my life, and all in one package. It’s the liberating freedom to create like you never thought possible before, and share those ideas for others to play online — it’s a literal game-changer.
Much like Youtube, Dreams is going to see one of three types of people using it. Those that want to create, those that want to play and those that want to do a little bit of both. The hardcore community of dreamers are already here thanks to the Early Access period and the community is thriving behind the scenes.
There are mass collaborations happening already with different people working as sculptors, animators, voice-over artists, composers and more as they combine their skills with Dreams’ tools to create full-fledged original games. It’s hard not to be in awe when you finish an hour-long adventure game and see 20+ different names appear in the credits.
Then you have some players working as free QI testers already as they leave detailed bug reports on games to help the developers and amongst it all — of course, there are the re-creations of PT that made the rounds late in 2019 as well as the many attempts of fan recreations of 90s-nostalgic games.
The first thing you should play is ‘Arts Dream’ which was created entirely by Media Molecule inside dreams. Not only does it show players what’s capable inside Dreams, but it’ll also inspire those wanting to create, showing them what can be created if you master the systems that Dreams give you.
‘Arts Dream’ is more than just a tech demo though. It’s a heartfelt endearing story of a man searching for himself amongst dark thoughts and at a loss for how to pull his life back together. The 2-3 hour journey will take you through a smorgasbord of genres from point-and-click adventure to the twin-stick shooter. But what’s most impressive is the animation and character design, especially if you’ve played some of the stiffer creations over the Early Access period. You’d easily forget that ‘Arts Dream’ is even a pseudo-introductory game for Dreams if it wasn’t for the Impy (your in-game cursor) that appears on-screen for certain segments. ‘Arts Dream’ is a beautifully put together story and game; something that would have taken a lot of time, but it stunningly shows what’s cappable for dreamers.
Sticking to my Youtube analogy, Dream Surfing inside Dreams is the equivalent of letting your ‘ recommended videos’ queue autoplay. You’re bound to hit an amazing experience eventually, but you’ll also run into a few less than stellar experiences. Luckily the curation system has come a long way since Early Access and the now Netflix-like main menu for discovering and searching for games allow Media Molecule to feature the proven good-stuff on the home page, front and centre.
Each month there is a new community project as well. A theme is given (the latest as of this review was food) and creators put in work to create games, art, music, around that theme. So there’s always going to be idea-sparking challenges for creators, and thus new, focused, games for players to check out.
At the time of release, there are easily enough good games in Dreams that everyone should find something that hits for them. Scrolling the nominees for The IMPY Awards 2019 (Media Molecules first awards for Dreams creators) you’ll discover some great games like ‘Pig Detective 2: Adventures in Cowboy Town,’ ‘Mimeo Prophecy’, ‘Do Robots Dream of Electric Imps’ and others that range from adventure-game, to FPS.
An amazing decision from Media Molecule was to set up https://indreams.me/. This website lets you browse games and creators in your web browser and save stuff to a ‘play later’ queue for later. This means that on your lunch break at work you can read a game description, look at its thumbs up from players, scan screenshots of the game and then decide if you want to play it later. This should help those who are easily undecided and would sit in front of their TV for an hour being unable to find what to play.
Certain players are making it their mission to be the go-to curators of what’s good and what’s not. So if you find a player that’s putting together playlists of stuff you like, you can follow that playlist creation and the player to piggyback off them working through the rough for you.
(We’ve been putting together a list of good stuff as well here at the Explosion Network so follow the collection here.)
The creation tools inside Dreams can seem very scary. If you just dive in and start clicking on things expecting to figure out how to build even a basic level you’ll be left lost amongst several systems. So don’t do that.
Dreams contains fantastic tutorials to learn every tool in the suite and you should use them. The classes start at beginner-level in each category and work their way up in difficulty. You can start by learning how to remix another level and simply change some pre-built assets; start sculpting your first character; paint a village, river and sky, or start learning to animate characters either in-game or for movies.
Of course, there’s more including the music creation tools which are just as in-depth as everything else, but what makes all of them non-scary, even for someone like me who sucked at creating a level even in Media Molecule’s previous create & play game, LittleBigPlanet, is that the tutorials are fantastic, and there’s already an encyclopedia of knowledge online and dreamers willing and wanting to help you on fan-sites.
Remixing levels is the easiest way to start creating fully playable stages. If another player has marked their level as remixable you can dive inside of it, see how they have everything keyed into place and start making micro adjusts to complete overhauls to make it your own. When I remixed my first level as part of the tutorials and completely remodelled the end-goal point in a simple point collection game I was really happy with myself when I played it through for the first time and it’s that sense of achievement that comes with completing something in Dreams that makes all the time and effort worth fiddling and learning the tools and equipment available for your disposal.
You can build nearly anything you’d want at the moment, but there are a few key things that I hope get added in somewhere down the line, or even just with the PS5 opening my hardware possibilities. The first is PSVR support, which we know is being worked on, but the second is online multiplayer or co-op games. It’s nice to have leaderboard support for arcade games, but I’d love to know what people could do by building their own MMO inside Dreams. And if that’s me dreaming too much, I honestly don’t know where the line lies for what’s possible with Dreams at the moment. Anything seems possible.
The biggest hurdle for all of these tools is simply getting used to a system that would obviously run with much ease with a keyboard and mouse and instead you’re stuck with either the DualShock 4 or PS Move Controllers to glide through levels and make very minute detailed decisions and movements at times.