The Sailor’s Dream is somewhat of an oddity: a sore thumb stretching above the wash of idle ports and clones that tend to appear in the App Store on a weekly basis. It’s an alluringly quaint experience and one we’d struggle to actually label as a video game. Then again, we’d expect nothing less from Device 6 developer, Simogo. Having also lent its name to a surreal gem of the horror genre, Year Walk, the Swedish studio has become known for unorthodox storytelling, cementing that reputation with its latest interactive novella.
What Simogo does best is engrossing its audience in the world straight away, despite offering little sense of bearing or direction. This is characterised perfectly in The Sailor’s Dream, with players being able to see little more than the calm ocean waves rolling before them. As if flipping through the pages of a book or rowing a boat, you are invited to swipe your way across the sea until you discover one of its long-forgotten landmarks.
Each landmark stands on its own self-contained island, emitting an aura of both foreboding and tranquillity as players approach. Like chapters in a novel, they all have a story to tell, embodied within the relics and trinkets left strewn about. Thankfully, these are clearly signposted and require little effort to find, fleshing out the story as it steadily unfolds. When all the major components are pieced together, you’ll be teased with one last snippet before sailing to your next destination.
We won’t spoil the plot, though there are obviously accentuated nautical themes here: ones that romanticise old fishermen’s tales and a time when life was much simpler. Beneath the surface however is something a little more sinister and unnerving – depending on how you interpret the clues left behind, that is. Otherwise, The Sailor’s Dream is a mosaic of loosely connected tales.
Either way, it’s all rather ambiguous due to the fact that some in-game content is sealed behind awkward barriers. For instance, one of the game’s locations will only cough up a nugget of information on the hour, every hour. Likewise, there are seven songs in a bottle that can only be accessed on certain days of the week. Arguably they add to its character and charm, though some will find it hard to forgive one particular way in which Simogo hides away content. This happens to be a print option that occasionally pops up, allowing players to wirelessly produce an image or other artefact to accompany the text before them. Again, it’s unique and quirky but, at the same time, it leaves those who don’t have the luxury of a wireless printer out in the cold.
Printer or no, it’s hard to deny that The Sailor’s Dream is a special, one off experience, despite its similarities to Simogo’s other works. The music is soothing and nostalgic, as is the game’s stunning artwork, with both coming together to give it a loving, hand-crafted feel. In short, if you’re looking for that next high octane, five-minute dose of fun, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Though it can be rounded out in just one sitting, The Sailor’s Dream is completely different type of interactive experience. It’s poignant if a little unsatisfying, but it certainly won’t be forgotten.