Graphic Adventure Review: Dream Chronicles

First posted in July, 2007

One line summary: Too pretty to not review.

But I suppose I should probably expound on that a bit more.

Post Myst, a lot of game reviews made claims that this or that game was Myst-like or in the footsteps of Myst or what have you, and while sometimes such praise was merited, often it was just something someone said to be nice or because the graphic adventure reviewing community has failed to come up with new and interesting ways to explain how a game is beautiful and immersive.

Whatever. This game reminded me a great deal of Myst.

See? It's rather beautiful. Organic, and... well... dreamlike.

Now, it's not entirely Myst-like, mind you, so don't go download it, play, and then start calling me on that. I can't place my finger on it... perhaps it's how the art nouveau architecture and generally lush environments reminded me of Myst: Exile. And to be quite frank, one of the things I liked most about Dream Chronicles is how it goes beyond the standard graphic adventure interface (in a way that many Myst-lovers would possibly find quite jarring); Dream Chronicles uses captions and text to flesh out detail. Almost everything can be clicked on for more information, even if it's not a useful object. Scenery is implemented, both in image and in word - a lovely blend of interactive fiction and graphic adventure elements.

Puzzles are generally intuitive, and when they're not, the game does a fairly good job of explaining what you need to do within the storyline. The adventure is almost simple enough that children could play, or at least be present to help you play along and feel like they were taking an active role. Perhaps, because of that, it felt a little too simple at times, and I found myself sort of wishing, for once, that a game like this had difficulty settings. That's not to say that I didn't get stuck briefly from time to time, but such moments were few and generally brief in nature.

To remain, for a moment, on those last two points, here's an example of interactive fiction imbedded within graphic adventure in a way that works for both adults and children...

(Click the image for a larger version. Opens in a new window.)

I found the interface to be intuitive, with a brief tutorial at the start that was not unwelcome. Dream Chronicles runs full screen or windowed. The windowed mode was handy while writing this review, but in the interest of noticing fine detail and (sometimes very small) objects, I recommend that you run it full screen. In the interest of immersion, I recommend that you run it full screen, wearing headphones, in the dark. I didn't have the luxury of dark when I played it. Perhaps I'll play through Dream Chronicles again this winter, when Alaskan skies will be dark enough to permit really immersive graphic adventure playing.

The soundtrack, which is lovely, deserves a short paragraph all its own. The music is an ambient/new age/generally soothing (what my husband calls meditative hippy music) soundtrack. Basically, it's what I listen to a lot of the time anyway, because I pride myself on (trying to achieve) a stress-free lifestyle. If you enjoy a soothing game to relax you, this is worth a download.

The story doesn't seem to be multilinear, making it less attractive in terms of replay value. That having been said, I generally wasn't bothered by the railroaded, one story-line only aspect, though... perhaps because it's pretty much a game that can be summed up as follows:
  • Very beautiful. Fully implemented, great environments, lovely music.

  • A mix of interactive fiction and graphic adventure, coupled with aspects of the increasingly-popular "hidden object" games.

  • The game follows a pattern: location with objects to find and a puzzle to solve, then you go to another location. Wash, rinse, repeat.
On a final note...

I threw this screen shot in for Sam. Draw your own conclusions as to why. If asked, my official response is that "I liked this game too much to do a tag-team snarky review with him, but wanted him to know he was in my thoughts." Or something sappy like that which doesn't actually utilize the words pixelated a** (see our review of Syberia). But in truth, were he here helping me write this, he'd offer up some astute observations:
  • You use a magical journal left to you by your missing husband, who had enough time to write out an entire journal filled with backstory, but didn't have enough time to explain it to you in person even though you've been awoken from the "sleep spell."


  • These puzzles are wack. I mean, how does locating parts and fixing a puppet theatre open the gate to the nearby village? ... which I answer, "The whole game revolves around faerie magic, so they can pretty much get away with anything they want, plot- and puzzle-wise. Sam doesn't, as a general rule, approve of games that have any element of faerie magic in them.

The faerie storyline (and sometimes sub-storyline), which ranged from cute, to proverbial, to amusing, to simply plot-driven, was, for what it's worth, part of the charm.

At least for me. But yeah, if you are allergic to faeries, this probably isn't the game for you.

If you're not allergic to faeries, enjoy art nouveau style and generally good implementation with simple but often engaging puzzles, and are up for some soothing game play and suspension-of-disbelief, then I recommend downloading Dream Chronicles, if only to try out the free one hour trial.