The Dream Machine is a point and click adventure game that gives players the opportunity to explore beautiful surrealist dream worlds, solving puzzles and interacting with fascinating- and funny- characters. You play as Victor Neff, a refreshingly subdued protagonist, who has just moved to a new city with his pregnant wife.
The game is released in chapters, the first of which is largely set in Victor’s new apartment. After waking from a pleasantly strange dream (a taste of things to come) the beginning of your adventure is satisfyingly mellow, from finding the right plug socket for your telephone to piecing together a burnt up letter, your quest is fairly mundane, giving you a chance to connect with the heavily stylized world. Once you become used to the artistic look of the game, it starts to feel oddly realistic, more so than any game I can remember.
Perhaps this is due to the wonderful writing, which feels natural and gives the characters a genuine depth, or perhaps it’s in the choice of the location; a new home, big empty rooms with dust on the carpet and sunshine streaming through the windows, where lights don’t work and a cardboard box makes a breakfast table. While the first chapter of the game is free, the rest of the series is available at a small price, with a discount for anyone who pre-orders the full game.
Interestingly, The Dream Machine is an online game, you can play it from the website and save your progress, and new chapters become available as soon as they’re ready. The makers of the game also have a system running that notices if players have difficulty with any of the puzzles, so that they can update the game to add clues and give appropriate in-game responses. This means the game is being continuously updated to be as good as it can be, so that every possible path is explored and every response feels natural.
The most exciting thing about The Dream Machine is it’s independence, the beautiful visuals are created by two men, sculpting every environment in a workshop. The world is built from cardboard and clay, and the fantastic roughness of it makes it feel tangible and exciting. The imaginative artistic style, and the funny, clever writing, gives the game a real weight and lifts it far above the bland blockbuster titles that dominate the industry.
The principal crew behind The Dream Machine consists of Erik Zaring and Anders Gustafsson. Their company is called Cockroach Inc.
To play the game and show your support, visit the website.
The Dream Machine also has a blog, which chronicles the progress of the game. It’s full of great pictures of the sets being built, and the characters being sculpted, and the makers of the game explain the reasons for all of their decisions, including why they decided to make the game playable online and why they have to charge you to play it (clue: they need to eat too, y’know). Remember, if you support this sort of thing, you’ll help artists provide an alternative to all those dull, corporate games that give the industry a bad name.