Have I ever mentioned that I’ve played adventure games since the first King’s Quests? I’ve literally played every single one of them that was worth playing. Heck, I even played Y2K. (Which, by the way, was not worth playing.) So when Dream Chronicles was first announced, I was quite excited. An adventure game for casual gamers!
Dream Chronicles (DC) is a typical first person adventure game, except that it is completely linear, and all the objects that you need to solve a given puzzle is usually near or on the same screen of the puzzle so there’s never any backtracking. Adding to the game is a number of “fairy jewels” that you have to pick up along the way that represents themselves on screen as colorful marbles. That would add to a “score” at the end of the game.
Puzzles in DC are a mixture of logical inventory puzzles (such as attaching wheels, washer, and nut to a spoke of a wagon) and riddle puzzles. What I mean by “riddle” puzzle is anything that doesn’t involve putting an inventory object on another – kind of like the 7th Guest. There’s a lot of “put this bunch of icons in sequence” as well. Mostly they are very logical.
Most of the time, however, you’d be spending object hunting. You’d be given a hint as to what you’re looking for, and off you go to look for it. Until you find every single last item, you can’t solve the puzzle and move on to the next screen. If you’re stuck long enough, the object will twinkle. These things are hidden adventure game style versus what casual gamers are used to; there’d be a corner sticking out of a book or a scrap coming out of the bushes. If you happen by them, however, the tooltip will come up letting you know what you mouse just moved over.
Some things are extremely small. Other times you’d find yourself peering into the darkness of the monitor thinking “what the heck am I looking at?” Since there is no setting to adjust brightness, you could end up with the dreaded adventure scenario of “pixel hunting.” Which I had to do many times. Most of the time when I found something I wouldn’t notice any change in the scene from before.
Another note is the linearity – once you finish a room, you can’t go back to it, and once you’ve finished the game, there’s really no point of playing it again aside from raising your score. That’s one thing about adventure games that doesn’t mix well with the casual game genre – there is little, if any, replayability in adventure games. Since DC also dumbed down the adventure part of the game by making all objects for a puzzle available in the same room as the puzzle, the game also goes absurdly fast. You could easily finish this in a couple of hours or less.
The art in DC is absolutely stunning for a casual game, and typical for an adventure game. The music is lovely, and the sound effects doesn’t stick out. There’s definitely a whole lot of production value here – beautiful adventure games are costly to make. That’s what makes casual games so lucrative – one puzzle with many difficulty levels = one game. Adventure game? Many scenes, many puzzles, many items … = one game.
As more casual games developers are looking to revive the adventure gaming genre by making them casual, I can’t help but feel that this is taking two steps back. Instead of spending $20 on a game you could finish in a couple of hours, why not pick up The Longest Journey at Staples for $9.99? It lasts for hours and hours, and the art is just as beautiful, if not more os.