I feel that I need to preface this review with the fact that I did some research about Dream Chronicles after playing through it because of some concerns I that had reared their heads. I needed to know the history about this game that appeared basically out of nowhere on PSN.
Dream Chronicles is made by PlayFirst, a company that is probably most notable for Diner Dash and everything else from the DASH series. Yes, they have a series of Dash games and it's quite long. They make mostly casual games for PC gamers. I mean PC as in personal computers, not just Windows computers. So Macs are included. Just remember that they make PC games as that will come up again. Also, speaking of series, this game is the first in the Chronicles trilogy. Dream Chronicles was the most well received entry into the trilogy when it was released in 2007 for PC everywhere.
The story of this game is that you play as Faye, a woman that is woken up from a deep sleep by the voice of her husband. You awake to find that even though your husband's voice woke you, he's no where to be found; not only that, but all of the other inhabitants in the town has been put to sleep by a spell cast by Lillith, the Fairy Queen of Dreams. This includes your daughter and in-laws. Your mission is to follow the diary pre-written by your husband to find him and free everyone from the sleeping spell.
On to the game play! Dream Chronicles is part puzzle solving and part hidden object. Hidden Object games are exactly what they sound like. Think of "Where's Waldo"- the object you're looking for is placed in am image filled with a massive amount of stuff making it hard to find whatever it is you need. This game is the same, but with the possibility of multiple "Waldo's" in the game. While finding hidden objects and solving puzzle is fun and all, I feel that this game dragged the puzzles on way longer than it need to. It's 18 chapters long and each chapter consists of at least one part object retrieval and one part puzzle solving. Some chapters have extra hidden object sessions after the puzzle. That's a lot of stuff to find and gather to solve a bunch of puzzles that don't always feel that necessary. Like finding a saw and coil of rope to cut wood and make a new section of a bridge to a tree house that collapsed. Just to clarify, the tree house is still standing. It's the bridge going from your outdoor skywalk to the tree house that's broken. The bridge section you end up making is something like 5 or 6 2x4 planks stacked horizontally and tied together. That's like, what, 3 to 4 feet in length? Did I seriously need to go through all that? Couldn't I have just jumped that distance?
Then some of the puzzles start to feel boring and forced by about ¾ through the game. Like how to hold open a mobile puppet theater, the proper placement of the puppets' heads, and finally where the crank and cogs went that make the whole thing go, disappeared to. Mind you, the crank and cogs were there when you first showed up. Your husband has been kidnapped by some evil fairy wench because she wants to marry him. Your daughter and everyone else that you might have ever cared about it are stuck in a Sleeping Beauty state of slumber. Do you think you really have time to figure out why a mobile puppet theater isn't working? Take heavy object, break theater, get the key, and go through a fence. Or just climb the fence; again, another puzzle that doesn't logically make sense in its inclusion in the game. If my girlfriend was kidnapped by an evil fairy sorcerer, I'd have his head on a stake by dinner and it'll take a lot more than a bunch of puppets and a broken kid's bridge to slow me down. Just saying.
Dream Chronicles is visually beautiful and the score is quite enthralling. In all honesty, I wasn't expecting the music to be as good and fitting as it was. It's orchestral and moving, matching either the scene visually or the mood that a scene is supped to evoke. And the visuals are pretty stunning. Especially if you consider that this is supped to be a casual game. Granted, this obviously isn't running on the Unreal Engine 3, but it's still nice rendered and relatively smoothly animated. I only give it that distinction because not much is animated to begin with. Also, since this is a partly a hidden object game, it's nice to see that interactive elements blend nicely and are hard to distinguish from non interactive elements. This is definitely not like the days of old PSX games like Fear Effect and Final Fantasy 7-9 where it was plain as day to see the difference between the background and character sprites.
Even with great music, great visuals, an okay if somewhat hard to swallow plot, and some seemingly repetitive puzzles, my biggest complaints about this game are the controls and the user interface (UI). Remember, this was originally a PC game, and trust me it shows. When the game first loaded, I was like "well, how the hell do I select anything? The d-pad doesn't seem to respond to anything…" And then I saw the giant mouse pointer and face palmed myself. Yep, you control a mouse cursor with the left analog and it's slow as hell. Thankfully you can speed it up to a normal pace by holding the square button. Awesome… The right analog controls the camera, while triangle button bring up the menu and X and O are interact and cancel respectively. Oh and R2 lets you "step" into a room. Basically, it zooms in so you can actually use the camera. Then there is the inventory. When ever you find something that you can actually use, you click and it goes to your inventory. This should be quite obvious. The problem here is that if you find something that you know where to use it BEFORE you click on it, you still have to click to send it to your inventory and then retrieve it from said inventory to use it, instead of just clicking to select and then clicking to use. Trust me when I say that this gets old really quick.
Overall this game is an…experience. There are elements that are remarkable for a 3 year old casual game. Then there are other parts that scream not fully baked. I can't say this game is worth the time needed to invest into it AND $10. If it were free, then maybe I could say give it a try without my conscience trying to drop kick me. So out of 5 TOV stars, I'm giving this one a 2.5. Dream Chronicles is available now on PSN as a free demo and $9.99 for the full game.