Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
Cockroach certainly never intended to take nearly five years to finish hand-made point-n-click The Dream Machine. What was intended to be six chapters over a few months has become essentially one a year. But with each one better than the last, and the fifth chapter due to appear before the end of the year (apparently to be as long as the first four put together), now is the perfect time to play through in preparation.
The Dream Machine first grabbed our attention in 2011 with its hand-made sets, and claymation characters. While not the only game to do it, it’s still a very rare treat, and it looked especially enticing here. This proved to be the case, with an opening chapter that was special for so many reasons. Not only were the sets and animation utterly wonderful, this first release had the confidence to barely introduce its core plot until the very end – before then, it focused on character establishment, giving you a reason to care about this little clay guy, and the machine that would trap the population of their block of flats in a dream world. Calmly showing a couple in the confusion of having just moved house, it established a depth of normality before plunging into fantasy.
Each chapter since has improved upon the last, with puzzles getting more interesting, and explorations of dreams handled in an interesting, mature way. You can pick up all chapters, including those as yet unreleased, for €16 from the developers, or via Steam for £12. It’s worth noting they regularly update all four existing chapters, tweaking and improving as they go.