Switch version tested
Review code provided
Developer Hypnotic Ants team-up with publisher Pineapple Works to bring their sublime low-poly adventure DREAMO to the Nintendo Switch. DREAMO, which can also be found on Steam, is a short story-driven puzzle game that challenges you to take on an everchanging backdrop of recollections.
Playing as Jack Winslow, an inventor come therapist, you awake on a mysterious island following an accident. Unaware of just exactly how Jack ended up on the island you begin to piece together missing memories in search of the truth. Finding artefacts will be key to unravelling and solving the numerous cubes you’ll be presented with along the way and become the core mechanic used to restore the missing fragments.
Decipher the cube!
DREAMO is played from a first-person point of view. The controls are mapped as expected, using the sticks to move and look around with actions mapped to the main buttons. The world crafted is beautifully realised in a stylised low-poly visual that is colourful yet elegant. It really works and places you firmly within the story being told through key elements of exploration and interaction. There is definitely a walking sim vibe to DREAMO that presents itself as chilled-out and relaxing. After a little research, it would seem that the PC version can be played in VR. The puzzle design and gameplay set-up would certainly suit this option if you have access to the right equipment.
Open your mind…
Besides progressing the storyline, in an attempt to solve the mystery of DREAMO, you will spend a lot of the game puzzle solving. As Jack explores the island, numerous cubes are discovered and require solving to progress. The learning curve for each cubic challenge is more than fair and each puzzle uses the same core mechanic, albeit modifiers are introduced in the latter cubes. By rotating each cube on its axis, with 360 degrees of movement, you are required to place a series of gears onto protruding pegs. Once all are linked, and in the correct positions, the puzzle is complete and the gears begin to turn.
As touched upon above, variations and modifiers are introduced on top of this core mechanic through progression – from the ability to move pegs to dimensional effects – and have an impact on the playstyle. Importantly, the key to making a puzzle game of this type enjoyable is striking the right balance and DREAMO does this well. The core mechanic is simple enough to instantly grasp but also offers enough to make you stop and think once in a while. All without ever really becoming overly frustrating. It did get a little tedious being constantly told to try another solution while working out my next move with a gear in the incorrect position, my bad I guess.
It’s all in the narration.
DREAMO benefits massively as a finished product thanks to its excellent voice work, it is one of the standouts here. The subtle monologue between Jack and Tara, a seemingly friend voice that guides, helps ground and contextualise the world you find Jack trapped in, adding emotion and a feeling of empathy with every step. As for the rest of the audio, the soundtrack has a whimsical charm that compliments.
A new challenger has entered the ring!
After finishing the three chapters, which won’t take too much time, DREAMO offers some replayability with increased difficulty. Challenge mode will present a steeper learning curve replacing the once relaxing experience and leaving you scratching your head. It’s a welcomed addition for those that want to extend the experience while trying to beat the game again.
DREAMO on Nintendo Switch was an unexpected and fun title. The visual is great with its stylised low-poly world which maintains focus on the puzzles within. The core mechanic is simple to learn yet offers enough of a challenge to keep you playing. Where DREAMO really shines is in its ability to deliver an interesting and touching story with its top-quality voiceover. Although short, there is some replayability and comes recommended.
TBG Score: 7.5/10
Platform: PC, Nintendo
Release Date: 19/11/2020
No. of Players: 1
Category: Adventure, Puzzle
Developer: Hypnotic Ants
Publisher: Pineapple Works
Download link: US eShop / UK eShop