Wot I Think: The Dream Machine Chapter 3

By John Walker on November 1st, 2011 at 2:32 pm.

Me too! But it's finally out.

What a season we’re in for adventures just now. With the re-release of Gemini Rue, the gorgeous Book Of Unwritten Tales, impending games from Amanita, and now a new chapter for the utterly engrossing The Dream Machine. The first two were groundbreaking for their remarkable use of claymation in cardboard sets, but how does it fare once it reaches a third part, and we’re used to the design? Here’s Wot I Think.

Nope, the claymation/cardboard thing is still just as effective and affecting. The incredible detail going into every set, the animations of the characters, and that strange inescapable charm of stumbling upon a Ukranian cartoon on BBC2 at 2.30am is just as present. I’m still not used to it.

If you’ve played the previous two chapters, you’ll know the theme here, as perhaps somewhat given away by the title, is a dream that is peculiarly involved in the dreams of those living in a particular apartment. The first chapter, available for free, is a wonderfully relaxed, normal thing. Beginning with a short dream, it’s mostly about settling into your new home with your pregnant wife – a uniquely calm and normal scenario, presented as a great point and click adventure. The honesty in the writing especially stands out, and the whole thing lays a foundation for the more peculiar events of the following chapters.

Avoiding spoiling anything in case you’re new to the series, let’s say that by chapter 3 you’re trying to help your wife out of a strange sleep-based situation, which involves entering the dream she’s trapped in. A dream set on a boat, in which every member of the crew is… you.

Loading itself up with Prisoner references, Victor must try to find his wife, who is apparently the highly regarded and unreachable captain. Everyone else is also Victor, identical in appearance other than a numbered badge. It’s certainly no coincidence that you’re given number 6, and to make sure no one misses the point, the number is within a drawing of a covered penny farthing. (Which makes me slightly confused that the Captain’s mouthpiece is number 3, not 2, but there we go.) So you get to know all the various Victors around the small area of the boat you’ve access to, uncovering a strange, conspiratorial plot after one crew member goes missing.

What this means is a new collection of conversations, inventory puzzles, and traditional puzzles to solve, and again they’re mostly brilliant. There’s a couple of points where prompts would have been helpful, especially as you’re occasionally having to deal with dream logic here, and one particular puzzle involving scraps of paper – while ingenious – really could do with slightly more feedback. But otherwise this is more of the same high standard of writing and puzzling that we’ve come to expect from Cockroach. There are one or two grammatical mistakes, which obviously stand out more in a game presented in text rather than speech (“this months tomatoe rations,” is the low-point), but then my Swedish isn’t really comparable. Overall it’s all to an incredibly high standard, and you can see why each chapter is taking so many months to produce.

It’s perhaps slightly less charming this time out, more because you’re only ever talking to other versions of yourself, most of them quite hostile, so you certainly do miss out on Victor and Alicia’s gorgeous banter. But it remains gently funny, and maintains that peculiarly uncomfortable tone that ensures you remember you’re within a dream here. It’s also not going out of its way to be easy, which is great.

The £4 per episode is perhaps slightly steep, given not only their brevity (there’s a couple of hours of game in this chapter), but also that it will eventually come to £16 for the full game, which is slightly over the indie odds these days. But then at the same time, it’s £4 for something smart, engaging and brilliantly well made. Which is pretty damned good. Oh, and you can of course buy all five up front for £11, so really there’s no excuse. If you’ve not played any of the games, definitely pick up the first one for free, then you’ll be incapable of not buying the rest.

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15 Comments »

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  1. Premium User Badge

    Craymen Edge says:

    I thought the first 2 episodes were fantastic.

    They’ve already had my 13 Euros, but after the the massive delay between episodes 2 and 3, I’m of a mind to wait until they’ve finished the whole thing and just playing all 5 episodes in a row.

    • RichardFairbrass says:

      I agree, and am quite worried about the massive delay in chapter 3 being released and general lack of info published about the delay. It’s not ‘Black Mesa’ bad, but it isn’t great either. I can’t remember what the original release schedule was but I’m pretty sure all 5 chapters would have been out by now.

      Going by the delay on this chapter I would say seeing the rest of the game by the end of next year might be a good bet.

  2. Premium User Badge

    lhzr says:

    no email notification for people who got the whole bundle last year? poor show.

    not gonna read the review, since i already bought it, but it’s a good thing you posted this, otherwise i would’ve completely forgotten about it. i gave up checking their site after they announced the 3rd episode won’t be coming anytime soon, so thanks for the reminder, john.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Lamb Chop says:

    Maybe if I finish Gemini Rue, I’ll make this next in my list of diversionary games. The claymation is adorable, but I also tend to lose the thread of games released in chapters.

    Any word on the timing of the BF3 multiplayer WIT? Their not giving RPS review code is the one and only impediment to my actually purchasing the game. I got Brink before your sage words were released, and then I was sad.

  4. TensaiBoy says:

    ‘you can’t of course buy all five up front for £11′

    is that a mockery of their ungrammaticalness, or am i in for some correction=eraserification? <3

    Awesome there are so many adventures now just that i re-discovered the genre, just wish for more steam and/or/equals lower prices. (oh god i said the s-word)

  5. Premium User Badge

    sonofsanta says:

    Happy news! At £4 an episode it’ll only actually end up as £16 all told, seeing as how they give you the first of five chapters for free. So cheer up John, it’s not as bad as you think it is!

  6. Javier-de-Ass says:

    a game coming out on steam eight months late is a re-release now? haha ok.

  7. Shadrach says:

    It’s awesome, finally got around to purchasing the game and been going through ch 1 & 2. Absolutely love it.

  8. Premium User Badge

    Hodge says:

    I played and enjoyed the first episode, but I’m waiting until all the rest are done so I can plough through them in one hit. I have a feeling it will be worth the wait.

  9. dsch says:

    Ukrainian?

  10. Teknorat says:

    “The first two were groundbreaking for their remarkable use of claymation in cardboard sets”

    Aren’t we forgetting about a little game called The Neverhood?