To put it simply; Media Molecule’s Dreams is going to change everything we think about user-made games. I was a bit skeptical at first, given the concept. It’s been marketed as a virtual creative toolbox where imagination is your only true limitation. I initially wrote that off as an exaggeration, but in this case, I was completely wrong. Dreams truly gives the most creative freedom ever seen in a video game. The creations that have been realized since the Early Access period have only pulled me in closer.
Dreams and everything in it take place in the Dreamiverse. A hub of sorts, the Dreamiverse allows you to play other user-created dreams, create your own dreams, or even take pieces and assets from other players’ dreams if you need a shortcut to a more realized piece of work. The game’s main story comes in the form of ‘Art’s Dream’; the story of a jazz musician named Art who takes a trip through his life and times in a cathartic but short feature-length, rather surreal adventure. Despite being short, it sets a great example of what players can do with the tools in Dreams.
This leads us into the Dream Surfing mode of the game, my personal favorite. Seeing everyone’s user-made games and digital art pieces made me feel a sense of wonder that I hadn’t felt from a game in years. Seeing the talent of PlayStation Network users is something that won’t get boring for a long time. While playing Dreams, I found myself in a digital photorealistic art piece of a hot dog meal complete with fries and shake. There was also a small puppet you could use to walk around the tray of the meal to gaze at the fine details of the render. I also encountered a full 3D realization of the first level from Sonic Adventure, quite surprising to say the least.
Where Dreams really innovates is in its Dream Shaping feature. In it, every player is a given imp to represent them. Imps are small, cute ball creatures with eyes that act as a mouse cursor that players can control via the DualShock 4 motion controls, PlayStation move wands, or good old fashioned analog sticks. You use the imp to drag, drop, duplicate, and create practically anything you can think of using the Dreams engine. I found myself creatively stumped in the beginning. Luckily, another great feature in Dreams lets you use assets from other user-generated Dreams to assist in your creative endeavors! Someone had created a game that was essentially a free-roam running simulator featuring the Flash of DC Comics fame. I took that model to outline a new version of the game because I felt the Flash could run even faster.
My only relative complaint about Dreams is the lack of quality control. Often times, a lot of Dreams uploaded are playable for a maximum of three to four minutes before they become stale or you run into a “work in progress” notice somewhere in the game world. This is to be expected with Dreams releasing in Early Access only last year, launching officially this past Valentine’s Day. I often found myself looking for a new Dream to play rather than actually playing one. However, as updates occur over the course of Dreams‘ lifetime, I’m sure we’ll see some beautiful, fully realized creations. I say this because we’re only so early into the game’s life. We’ve already seen several beautiful and unique gaming experiences to behold behind this one creation engine.
In short, Dreams has been an honor to play. It’s a console-based creative suite unlike any that’s come before it. It has spectacular visual options, user-friendly controls, and literally endless possibilities. It’s safe to say that Dreams is an excellent way to help us wrap up the current generation. At the same time, it’s preparing us for the future of gaming as we knot it.