When you think of a point-and-click adventure game, what do you think of? Exploration, maybe? Memorable characters? Creative puzzles? Maybe even great music, if you’re a Lucasarts or The Neverhood fan.
The Dream Chronicles developers decided to make an adventure game without any of that, essentially creating a protracted game of hide-and-seek, framed by a story about fairies.
The story follows a woman named Faye, who is (somehow) woken up by her (kidnapped, fairy) husband Fidget from a magical sleep cast over the world by Lilith, the fairy queen of dreams (who was set to marry Fidget, before his parents discovered the mystery of love and decided to allow him to marry whoever he wanted, in his case the human Faye, much to the chagrin of the fairy kingdom, who apparently don’t like that sort of thing).
It’s then up to Faye to save he sleeping daughter Lyra and her kidnapped-by-Lilith husband Fidget (in addition to the rest of the world) by following a linear path and doing some puzzles!
While one would think that this story could be expanded upon in gameplay, none of the puzzles relate to the overall narrative, most being mild annoyances that inexplicably block your path.
They try to explain this stuff away as "fairy mischief," but when your path is hindered because the chalk drawings on Faye’s daughter’s treehouse are the wrong color, it makes you think that developers are just trying to pad the playtime as opposed to creating puzzles that are interesting from a narrative or mechanical perspective.
On occasion, the developers will use this "fairy magic" excuse to make puzzles appear before your very eyes. There’s nothing more frustrating than finishing a particularly lengthy puzzle only to have the developers go "oh no, fairy magic!’ and block your path with a an object that wasn’t in your way a minute ago.
Dream Chronicles is entirely played by clicking on things. Lots of things. Really tiny things. Hard to see things. Things that blend into the backgrounds. When you enter a room, you click on whatever needs to be fixed or solved and are given a prompt. Often, you’re told exactly what you need to do or find to solve the "puzzle." Dream Chronicles is essentially a glorified game of hide-and-seek.
While this wouldn’t inherently be a bad thing, the difficulty arises not finding, but rather SEEING the items you need to get. The vast majority of the items that you need to find are tiny or seem to vanish into the environment. Unfortunately, this means that most of the puzzles devolve into clicking everything on the screen until you pick something up.
However, even if you do pick up something, it might not always be helpful. It could be one of the pieces of the collectable "Dream Jewels" that give the player more points at the end of the game. Aside from numerical satisfaction, these jewels are entirely useless, and often act as more of a frustration than a pleasant surprise. When you’re trying to find an incredibly small black rock to solve a puzzle, and click on an incredibly small dark blue rock that places itself in your pause menu, it’s hard not to feel at least a little annoyed.
Compounding these issues is the game’s control scheme. Dream Chronicles is definitely meant to be played with a mouse. It seems as though very little thought has been put into making the game work with a 360 controller. Moving the left thumbstick starts moving the mouse at an agonizingly slow rate, eventually accelerating to a reasonable speed. It feels as though you’re dragging the cursor across the screen, and that makes moving from your inventory to the onscreen puzzle a pain. When things finally devolve into the aforementioned random clicking, the uncomfortable controls make the game even more irritating.
Not everything about Dream Chronicles is bad though. The visuals are pretty good in some places, and the art style the game an appropriately modern-fantastical look. The score is forgettable, but relaxing, and fits the tranquil environments pretty well. It’s entirely possible that the game’s target demographic would enjoy the story, which is decently written if not a bit ludicrous.
Dream Chronicles also contains a zoom mechanic, which, while not making up for the inability to move, makes the game feel a bit more exploratory than it really is. Also, it’s not every day that you get to play a game as a happily married woman with a daughter and a dog. That’s kind of neat. It’s just a shame that that concept couldn’t have been in a more engaging game.
Food for thought:
Some of the puzzles seem incredibly illogical. In addition to having progression blocked by seemingly insignificant event aforementioned chalk puzzle, there are also puzzles in the game that seem like they have to be over-solved.
Why do I have to find nuts, bolts, oil, and wheels to move a child’s wagon out of my way? Why can’t I just pick it up and put it elsewhere, or push it away without wheels? Faye’s certainly strong enough to pick the wagon up, since she flips it over to wheel it away after she solves that puzzle.
I also can’t believe Faye had no idea her husband was a fairy. His name is Fidget. If that wasn’t enough, she lives right next door to her in-laws, who are named Aeval and Tangle.