Dreamscaper tells the story of Cassidy, a girl whose dreams and nightmares come to life in a vivid, alternative reality every time that her head hits the pillow. Within the confines of this dream world, she gains weapons and powers beyond belief. With great slumber, comes great responsibility, but is Dreamscaper a fantasy worth pursuing or is it just a fading memory, lost to the night?
I got a chance to check out Dreamscaper’s prologue, which is a free download that contains the first chapter of the game. Much like the Shareware titles of the ’90s, this approach should allow a mass amount of people to check out the game’s intriguing gameplay at no cost and get them ready for the full retail release this summer. I am guessing that it should also provide the developer with valuable play data for research and tweaking, so it’s a win-win situation all around.
Starting in the level of Home Town, Cassidy is there — both in real life and in the dream world. Within the waking world, she can converse with personalities in town to get to know them better by crafting items and talking to them to learn a bit more of the story, which in turn earns items and powers that manifest themselves in the dream world. The true meat of the gameplay comes when she lays down on the bed in her apartment, falls through her bed, and lands in the world of dreamscapes made real.
Every time you enter the world of dreams, you enter into a scenario where if you die in the dream, you wake up and have to relive the experience. There is some progressive exploration involved, but each run will provide you with different paths, weapons, abilities, and upgrades. All paths eventually lead to the boss of the level, but there’s a lot to deal with before you get there.
Enemies in Dreamscaper are as varied as the rooms that ensnare them, and there’s plenty to keep you on your toes. Ranging from small, melee-heavy enemies to ranged attackers that can unleash bullet-hell-like projectiles flying in all directions, it’ll help to be quick on your feet and have a firm grasp on your weapon of choice.
There are two different weapon types: a melee weapon and a ranged weapon which requires ammo to use. Your melee weapon provides both light and heavy hits and after a few in a row can provide some killer combos to lay waste to the darkness that lurks around every corner. Ranged weapons let you manually aim and charge your attack, and even though their ammo is limited, it can help you attack distant enemies that are hard to get near. Mix all this with a dodge roll, your shield, and some abilities or element-based spells — depending on what you get during your exploration — and you have a strong arsenal against the legion of creatures that haunt you. Combat feels both smart and fluid in every encounter you face, but bosses offer even harder challenges, giving you large-scale battles that test your wits and strength, requiring detailed pattern recognition and skilled timing. The danger in your nightmares are real, and they won’t hold back even one bit.
Environments in Dreamscaper are gorgeous and carry a dreamlike appearance when compared to the direct representations of the waking world that you can also visit between runs, but they offer their own challenges. Doors that require keys, and blockades that require bombs, are just some of the physical obstacles you’ll need to bypass to get through the next area or even to secrets hidden around the fringe areas of each location. You may find yourself uncomfortable pushing to find everything before jumping into the boss fight, but the breathtaking dreamscapes and beautiful soundtrack provided by Dale North will help ease your anxiety as you plunge yourself deeper into the slumberous unknown.
Dreamscaper is a unique game with an intriguing premise that breaks the barrier of the subconscious to deliver fast action and nuanced gameplay. Only time will tell if the other chapters live up to greatness I experienced in the Prologue, but if they are anything even remotely close to building upon the core gameplay loop here, I’m ready for it.
Dreamscaper: Prologue is available now on Steam. Check out their website for more information about the game.