Publisher: Digerati Distribution
Release Date: 13/09/2017
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC, Mac
After loving games like Another World and Flashback in my younger years, there was something about DreamBreak that appealed to me from the get go. Visually, it looks just like those games, but it also has a focus on some point and click-like elements too – naturally, my hopes were high that it would offer a nostalgic gameplay experience that would entertain me as much as the games it was inspired by did.
Unfortunately, DreamBreak doesn’t have the same charm; whilst it might look the same from the outside, some dull gameplay elements and awkward controls prevent it from living up to the high standards of the aforementioned classics.
DreamBreak puts you in the shoes of Eugene, a janitor at a bar who somehow finds himself wrapped up in the middle of a revolution in a cyberpunk stylised Soviet State. Pretty standard day for a janitor, really.
Whilst the concept alone is decent enough, the execution always felt slightly off. Eugene ends up getting involved because he took a keycard from a body that was found outside the bar, but there was no real motivation for doing so. In fact, there’s almost no motivation for anything he does or for him to change into the person he ends up becoming; whilst it’s easy to see it as a situation of being in ‘the wrong place at the wrong time’, Eugene’s motivations are never really explored. Even the characters you meet throughout the game feel like nobodies, with almost no one really sticking out in the mind as a distinct personality. It’s a shame, because there is certainly potential for DreamBreak to offer a decent espionage-driven revolutionary plot – it just falters at almost every turn.
At least it’s a bit more creative as far as gameplay goes, though unfortunately DreamBreak is plagued with incredibly awkward controls. Every time you change direction or perform an action in-game, Eugene bizarrely has to turn and face the front first. It looks incredibly stupid in-game and just feels awkward; it completely breaks up all platforming sections and made even the most basic of traversal seem uncomfortable.
Besides the fact that everything you do in the game looks awkward, actually performing each action felt clumsy too. I don’t know if it just felt off because of Eugene’s awkward turning manoeuvres, but I often felt as though my button presses weren’t properly recognised; there were plenty of jumps I missed or hazards I ran into because the game didn’t recognise a jump, even when I was CERTAIN that I pressed the button in time. I think the game was built around mouse and keyboard controls when it originally released on Steam so maybe something has been lost in the transition to console, but it certainly hindered my enjoyment whilst playing the game. There are quite a lot of platforming sections too, so you’ll certainly be well aware of the problems throughout your time with DreamBreak.
The main bulk of your time in DreamBreak will be spent working through linear platforming sections or partaking in the wide variety of mini-games on offer. Some of these mini-games will be familiar to gamers – some involve you moving around a variety of pipes to control a stream of water, some see you betting on rocket strapped animals (which is obviously pretty cool), other times you might be hacking pursuing vehicles, whilst another scene involves shooting out at drones Space Invaders style. There’s certainly plenty of variety on offer and to their credit a lot of these mini-games were decent enough, even if they don’t really offer anything you wouldn’t have seen a thousand times before.
The puzzle solving elements of the game are a lot less satisfying though, with nothing on offer in the game that’ll ever really leave you perplexed. If you ever need an item to interact with an object you can almost always guarantee it’ll be there in the room with you, whilst the linear approach of the game means you never have to think too hard even when you’re not sure what exactly you need to do. If you’re look for a challenging experience that demands you get your thinking cap on, you’re definitely going to be left feeling a little underwhelmed.
Whilst DreamBreak does a lot wrong, I did find myself impressed with its presentation. I’ve always been a fan of retro visuals, so the well designed cyberpunk world and the fantastic pixel art did make the game a joy to explore – especially from a nostalgic point of view. The character animations were well designed too, with DreamBreak often reminding me of Another World or Flashback with how characters actually moved. It was something I could appreciate and showed that the game did have its moments where it would genuinely remind of the games I so desperately wanted it to play like.
It shouldn’t take you too long to make your way through DreamBreak, with the game easily beatable in under two hours. It’s incredibly linear too, so there won’t be many instances where you’ll be given the chance to go off wandering or will be left stumped at what exactly you need to do. There are multiple endings on offer for those who want to see the revolution end in different ways, so that could add a bit of extra time onto your playthrough. There’s no guarantee that you’ll actually want to play on to see those extra endings, though…
DreamBreak offers a well-designed world and a decent amount of variety throughout its adventure, but unfortunately the lacking story, clumsy controls, and often dull gameplay mechanics make it incredibly difficult to recommend. Don’t get me wrong, I never found myself particularly bored, but there were certainly plenty of moments where I was left frustrated and just wanted to turn the game off.
Fans of this style of game might find the patience to play through the relatively short story, but those who expect a bit more from their adventures are best to leave DreamBreak well alone.