“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
I’m sure you’ve heard that one before. So has Howard Phillips. Do you know the answer? Without a shadow of a doubt? Do you know what you want to do for the rest of your life? Howard doesn’t. And he’s already grown up. With a diploma, but no direction, Howard is going to stop looking outward and start searching within. Dream is a surreal dive into the subconscious, exploring the concept of identity like never before.
Early in the game, Howard arrives at a thematically significant crossroads in the desert. It’s up to you to pick a path. Any of them. You can take Howard in whichever direction you want to, freely exploring at your own pace and in your own way. Everything about Dream is fittingly nonlinear. Solve puzzles out of order and uncover the fragmentary narrative piece by piece. You didn’t expect the subconscious to be straightforward, did you? Depending on the actions you do or don’t take, Howard’s story will play into one of three unique endings, pulling the storyline into a cohesive finale.
Similarly, the dreamscape itself is made up of vastly different interlocking areas. Some of these locations are as domestic as a serene park or snowy tundra. Others, such as a cluster of topsy-turvy staircases or a city islanded in an endless ocean, stretch the limits of the imagination. These all branch out from an abstract hub at the center of your psyche, which you’ll revisit at the beginning of every night. Each open-ended zone is fully realized with cutting edge graphics and stirring tracks by composer Norman Legies, making your journey fully immersive.
Despite the stunning backdrops, Howard isn’t sleeping too soundly. At the end of each act, you’ll fall into a nightmare sequence set in a twisted version of Howard’s home. What’s haunting our drowsy hero? Probably the fact that his house is way too posh for someone without a career. Seriously, Howard, sell your jukebox and pay some of those bills. Regardless, Dream’s quick forays into the horror genre are subtly crafted to let your imagination do most of the dirty work. Just keep telling yourself that no one else is actually in the house with you and you’ll be just fine . . . Right?
For a while, the HyperSloth Games development team was living their own nightmare. After being successfully Greenlit on Steam, the developers tried to fund the rest of the project through Kickstarter. When that failed, the Dream seemed dead. With no savings, HyperSloth reached out to the community once more, this time offering pre-Alpha copies of Dream in exchange for PayPal donations. “The donations turned out to be a fantastic idea, more of you donated than I thought and the response was fantastic,” writes Co-founder Ashley Stancill. “Honestly it will sound a little soppy but words cannot describe the feeling you get from knowing people actually believe in Dream and share the same passion. The donations gave us each around £100 to live each month until we managed to secure our publisher Mastertronic.”
The rest, of course, is history. Dream is now fully released on Steam and available in four languages. HyperSloth, it seems, can finally rest easy.