dream:scape ($1.99) by Speedbump is a visually captivating clue hunt game for your iPhone or iPad.
In this game, you play as a character named Wilson. There's some backstory to Wilson--he's in a coma and has no family or friends left. The doctors report that he shows no signs of brain activity whatsoever, and there's nothing that they can do for him. You will soon find yourself in Wilson's dream world, where his memories are. There's something that is hidden in his memories, haunting him. It's your job to help Wilson find out what that memory is.
The first thing you'll notice about dream:scape is the graphics. These are Unreal graphics, and for what it's worth, they're pretty decent. Though I don't think these graphics are great compared to Infinity Blade, who also uses the same engine for graphics.
Despite the good visuals, I was disappointed by the frame rate of the environment when moving around. At times it was choppy, and overall it just wasn't smooth. And while a majority of the graphics look great, if you look down on the ground, it's ugly compared to the rest.
You control Wilson using two virtual joysticks. The one on the left is to move Wilson, and the one on the right is to move the camera around. Alternatively, you can move the camera around by swiping on the screen.
As I was playing the game, I found that sometimes the joysticks wouldn't be very responsive to my touch. After having your finger on the screen for a long period of time, your finger may not be on the joystick and movement becomes choppy, making it difficult to navigate.
The camera control is also set on one way, and you can't change it. I found this frustrating because I would end up looking down when I wanted to look up, and vice versa.
As for actual gameplay, this is pretty much just you exploring an open world and piecing together a secret from the past. You are given a Diary at the beginning of the game, and this is where all of the story and clues get recorded. The story is told exclusively through dialogue and written word, which is what the Diary is for.
This is a game about exploration. There aren't really any monsters to kill or enemies to fight, like your typical game fare. You'll be lead where to go by the Diary, and then you'll have to find clues by the voices you'll hear at the specified location.
Some parts of the game will require you to do quick actions in a specific manner. However, if you don't do these actions quick enough or in the specific way, you will end up back at your last checkpoint, and with no guidance on what you did wrong.
The problem I had with clues is that it isn't done intuitively. The first clue is a key that is hidden in a hollow tree. Instead of looking for a key and just tapping it to take it or use it, you will have to run up to this hollow tree until you get a scene. Then you will see the key and it will be available to use, even though you don't get a bag or anything with all your items that you've collected.
I would have thought that it would have made more sense to tap on a clue when it's found rather than just running up to it until you get a cutscene. It's just not very intuitive at all, in my opinion.
The worst thing about getting started with dream:scape is that it is very vague, and gives you little direction of what to do. In the beginning, I was completely lost until I started doing a little research about the game.
The other problem I have with the game is that it is just a lot of backtracking. You'll probably see some items that you think will be important later on in the story. That's because they are. But you can't do anything with them until you reach that point in the story, are required to get that item, and then you must remember where you saw it and go back to actually get it.
The game is relatively short if you don't take into account all the backtracking that is involved. However, the backtracking is required and only lengthens the game.
So far, I am enjoying the story, and I will have to say that it is pretty captivating. This game is best played with headphones, so you can fully immerse yourself in the environment and dialogue.
If you manage to finish the main story, you will unlock the "Free Roam" mode. It's as exactly as you think it is - freely explore over 30 acres of 3D environment.
While dream:scape could have been good, I don't think it was ready for its debut quite yet. The control scheme feels half-baked, and there are frame rate and texture issues. It's also relatively short and only uses backtracking to lengthen the experience. Getting started is a bit hard since you are pushed into a world without any real sense of direction on what to do next.
This app also requires a rather large amount of memory. It is recommended to play dream:scape while on an iPhone 4 or iPad 2, due to smaller memory capacities on older devices.
dream:scape could have been a lot more, even though the story is haunting and captivating. Speedbump could have taken more time to perfect this game rather than make it feel like a rushed-out product.
One last note--is it really necessary that I have to keep watching the introduction video every time I come back into the app after quitting?