As we took the opportunity to explore the Polish independent developer scene, Fat Dog Games showcased to us the talent and variety originating from the local developers they’re supporting, ranging from tactical RPGs akin to Advance Wars, to an ambitious beat-em-up with RPG elements. Moving on from Exorder and Sand is the Soul, Dream Alone has a very different flavour. A bleak looking platformer with gothic overtones, it didn’t give the greatest of first impressions, but certainly got a lot more involved and interesting the more we played.
In the sea of indie platformers, it was initially very difficult to see where Warsaw Games’ Dream Alone would stand, utilising a mostly monochrome art style that is equally creepy and chaotic. The way things moved was very similar to another game – Cast of the Seven Godsends – which is not the most flattering comparison, but it actually works better in this context thanks to its darker tone.
I initially likened it to the likes of LIMBO, mostly because of the creepy crawlies, instant kill traps, and a haunting vibe it had throughout. It’s a comparison that holds true in many ways, but the platforming itself is much floatier. As such, the game takes on a more old-school challenge in a way, since there are huge gaps to navigate and precise ways to avoid a horrible bloody death.
I was actually pleasantly surprised by the games’ main gimmick of being able to traverse between different planes of existence. Dream Alone is supposedly inspired by Grimm’s Fairy Tales, though the time I spent with the game saw very little of this source seep into the visual aesthetic. Instead, travelling to the other world presented us with a sepia tone and a more gothic tone with graves and skeletons littering the landscape.
As to why you would do this, the main reason is that certain terrain changes from impassable to either being safe or only slightly safe to traverse. Swinging pendulums, enemies, and spike pits are commonplace, while one sequence involving being chased by boulders took a little while to overcome thanks to some rather mean tricks.
This plane shifting mechanic isn’t exactly new, after all Great Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams did a very similar thing, but what makes Dream Alone a little more unique is just how creepy everything is. Monsters that go bump in the night don’t really provide any scares, except that one tick that fell from a great height to kill the child, but the tension of not knowing what’s past that tree obscuring the player’s viewpoint is somewhat effective.
If I were to nit-pick, as I tend to do with previews, I would say that there were some incredibly precise jumps that needed to have the child walk almost past the edge in order to clear the gap. Aside from that though, the game handled fairly well upon preview and while certainly a little simplistic in its core concept, there’s enough potential for Dream Alone to evolve past it.
From the trailers, that seems to be the case. The forested area I played was just a slice of what the full game has to offer, with more powers and settings on show in the trailers. I went into the event thinking this would be a game that would be forgettable. Yet somehow, despite still being very creeped out by the child’s vacant, all seeing, all knowing face, and the almost ragdoll movement of the characters on screen; this has quite a fair bit going for it.
Dream Alone is coming soon to PC, Xbox One, Switch, iOS. Our thanks to Fat Dog Games for inviting and hosting us at their game showcase in Warsaw.