Tuesday 25 June 2019

Dream World (Supervision review)

Developer: Bon Treasure
Publisher: Watara
Released: 1992

Dream World is an action-platformer that takes narrative inspiration from Super Mario Bros. (1985, NES).

The Princess of Dreams has been kidnapped and it's your job to rescue her by completing all four stages. The hero can shoot a light projectile that kills most enemies, but bosses require you to switch to the heavy weapon that has limited ammo. Gameplay wise, it commits the cardinal sin of level design 101 in that it switches up the rules of what should be a harmful hazard for your character; this occurs in Round 3 where the only progression route is to fall into a particular pool of water that otherwise kills you throughout the rest of the area. It's ambiguous and unless you know to do this you'll eventually get stuck at a dead end with no way to escape except to drown in the next water pool! There's also no continuity to the level design, as sometimes you'll exit to the left, only to be facing a blocked route in front of you on the subsequent screen with no option but to begin scrolling to the right! It does force you to move right-to-left at points (unusual in most platformers), but the caveat is that no enemies appear when scrolling in this direction. Other technical shortcomings are the inconsistent collision detection (bullets often strike enemies with no effect), choppy scrolling (the action freezes each time you shoot) and the fact that the game temporarily pulls you backwards when you descend stairs! The worst offender is Round 3's boss which can only be defeated using the heavy weapon; however, you must select it before you enter battle, as it's impossible to do so during it! The bosses feature large sprites, but the developers didn't think to include 'safe zones' or areas you can manoeuvre to avoid damage; as a result, your HP bar will be depleted and the game doesn't even have the courtesy to refill it after each round!

Dream World is certainly an interesting premise, but it's also very unpolished and rough around the edges. To somewhat enjoy the action you really need to play repeatedly to learn its technical / level design quirks and how to exploit them, but it's doubtful that many people will want to endure the drudgery that necessitates this.

Random trivia: The game doesn't feature an ending, and instead your character falls off the screen and dies!

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