Oooh, it’s all gone a bit dark in this Dreamview Weekly Roundup, hasn’t it? Witchcraft. Guns. Sheep with too many teeth. More guns, with a side-salad of clowns. Then again, it’s September now, which everybody knows is practically Halloween.
If you’d like to lodge a complaint regarding the terror that this Roundup may instill in you, please wait while our customer service representative K̝̟̖̲̯͊͒̎͋͠E̡̦̗͕̣̺̤͈̓̉V̸̜̤̙̲͚̮̖̟ͬ͛ͮÎ͚̭̲̜͔͔͕͗́̅́Ṅ͏̖͎͇U͓̠͈̦̞̓́͋͠S͕͓̥̝̞ͮ͡ͅ unmires himself from the infernal bog within which he dwells.
What’s that? You’ve changed your mind, and would instead like - nay, love - to read our five recommendations for things to check out in Dreams? That’s the spirit! Right this way, then.
Deadzone: Aberration (Demo)#
Estimated playtime: 30 mins
“What do we have to rip and tear to get our hands on some gameplay?”, we once asked, having seen a visual teaser for this pulpy yet ultra-polished FPS. We can now safely step away from our laceration stations: a playable demo for Deadzone: Aberration is here, and it’s astonishing. Your shape-shifting weapon - which reconstitutes itself entirely upon the press of a button, depending on whether you need an automatic rifle or a shotgun - is a miraculous thing to behold and a joy to shoot besides, with just the right amount of kickback and rumble. Elemental grenades introduce a degree of crowd control strategy to proceedings, which the tutorial area does an excellent job of teaching through minigames.
But, as ever with the Deadzone series in Dreams, it’s the tone and style of the thing that really helps it stand out from other DOOM-a-likes. Clowntown has a chaotic technicolour aesthetic that feels like BioShock partying with Borderlands at a Halloween rager. Meanwhile, your robotic companion continues to be one of the best-written things we’ve ever encountered in a Dreams game. Trust us when we say it’s tough for an NPC to be genuinely funny, especially when it talks a LOT - but these are the rare one-liners that don’t grate. The team knows it too, kicking off the demo with an interaction that makes for the perfect introduction to this assured sequel.
This Place Is Cursed#
Estimated runtime: 4 hrs
Witch? Please. Magick meets mental acuity in this locked-house puzzle adventure. When a weekend trip to a cabin in the woods goes wrong, you find yourself trapped in a place that audibly growls at you should you try to exit. You’ll have to charm your way out. Through reading scrolls scattered about this place - which is decorated with moon-shaped windows, stitched together with passageways and stuffed with all manner of arcane curiosities, many of which play a role in conundrums you’ll discover in every corner of the house - a strange story unfurls.
Clues are threaded through it. Your book, now a grimoire, is the key to keeping an organised record of the spells, runes and pieces of information you’ve learned in your exploration of the house. It’s a beautifully presented and elegant tool; with many puzzles accessible from the get-go and hints everywhere, this is a wonderfully in-world reminder of what you need, without holding the player’s hand. (Said hand is much too busy casting spells, after all, with a satisfying magick system that is a tricky treat in its own right.) Indeed, this is something you can really sink your teeth into: this location feels truly threatening and mysterious because it refuses to give up its secrets too easily.
Estimated runtime: 3 mins
EndlessFM is a newer creator to the Dreamiverse, but has already produced an impressive number of atmospheric audiovisual tableaux. One of the most recent is an electroambient gem that almost plays out as one long, calming inhale-exhale. Synths hum warmly in the background as the art - at the centre, architectural figure with what looks like harp strings in their throat - extends into its full spread alongside the track. And, as we climb down from the musical climax, with layers of the music falling away again, so too does the art fold back in on itself. EndlessFM, everybody: making music production look as easy as breathing.
Estimated playtime: 1+ hr
Now here’s a title that tells you exactly what to expect. The Ratchet & Clank vibes are strong with this one, a punchy thirdperson character shooter that throws you into a multi-stage showdown against a bullet sponge boss. And when we say ‘bullet sponge’, we’re not using any fancy metaphors. This thing is a gigantic, sentient loofah that can tank an awful lot of fire. It’s got some great smack-talk. Oh, and it’s also learned how to wield a mage’s staff, which is going to cause problems for you.
It might be a goofy concept largely based on a pun (pssh, who’d make a living off doing that?) but Intrattackout’s design talents remain as convincing as ever. It’d be too easy to stay at range, dodging and hopping The Bullet Sponge’s variety of projectile attacks, homing spells and rippling arcs - so a clever mechanic that demands you get close to toast the sponge with your flamethrower, causing it to drop health pickups, pulls you in. A pistol custom-made for vulnerable purple spots means regularly switching things up reaps big damage rewards. The literal kitchen sink flying at you, though, might catch you unawares. You'll have to carefully observe the boss' tells, taking advantage of windows of opportunities in the right way, to survive. Part of the essential joke, however, is that it’ll be some time before this bullet sponge goes down - but with changing environments to navigate and generous checkpointing options, this squashy gag has turned up a solid challenge.
On The Fence - The Ride
Estimated playtime: 45 mins
As far as interactive experiences go, this is a simple one - you don’t have to be a pro gamer to ride It’s A Small World. This is essentially that: an amusement park ride where your only job is to sit back, relax, listen, and occasionally crane around to get a closer look at what’s on display. It’s the subject matter that might challenge you. On The Fence - The Ride uses sheep as human stand-ins to soften the sharp edges of a tale as old as time: people fighting about their belief systems. On one side of the fence, you’ve got Ramsey, who’s passionate about the existence of an almighty creator that formed the world. On the other, there’s Ewegenia, who argues that a scientific event spawned the existence of all sheepkind.
With its commitment to the handmade, theatrical detailing of the animatronics and sets - as well as its determination to scare the living daylights out of you, although we’d argue the religious gorefest is no worse than the terrors preachers do often describe - On The Fence ends up being an adept representation of both the inherent silliness and the abject horror of a nuance-free world. You’re quite literally caught in the middle of this farce in your little carriage, having to turn your head back and forth between characters on soapboxes. Creator (and voiceover talent) SPINEBLOOD does a commendable job of pointing this out more explicitly in the back half of the ride, and offering new perspectives on how we might better understand where others are coming from. We tell stories to cope with life and connect with others - when those stories start to get too much in the way of that, On The Fence successfully argues, it’s maybe time to get off the wild ride.
Check out the playable edition of this week's Dreamview Weekly Roundup right here in Dreams!
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