I had no little expectations when I first started playing Dreambreak.
The screenshots looked interesting and I’m a sucker for point and click based titles, especially ones that seem to have new takes on the genre, so I just had to try it out.
What I got was a pleasant little surprise of a gem.
Dreambreak was developed by Aist and published by Beatshapers and Digerati Distribution. The premise takes place in an alternative post-Cold War USSR in 2013, where you play as an espionage agent fighting against the government.
What first drew me into Dreambreak were its graphics. For an indie title, the presentation is absolutely stunning. The graphics are clear and crisp, and there’s plenty of detail put into each character sprite, building, and background.
Surprisingly, the color palette is quite varied. Although there are many shades of brown, gray, and other darker colors (this is a dystopian future after all), other brighter colors, like yellow, red, and blue are utilized. This helps each screen pop and become easily recognizable. So many dystopian type games use only dark colors, which may look bleak but are visually a bore to look at. The combination of colors in Dreambreak actually helps make the city look dark. Some areas are darker and more dilapidated than others (mostly due to the color schemes) which shows how some parts of the city are doing better than others, as you would expect in a totalitarian state.
The soundtrack is also utilized to its fullest potential. There are many different tracks to listen to and collect throughout Dreambreak. They all sound different, but still have a common techno sound to them. The music helps establish the bleak atmosphere of the city and allows the player to get connected even more with the protagonist and story. Being able to play each song once collected is a great feature.
Although the graphics and soundtrack are superb, Dreambreak’s gameplay is somewhat misleading.
While, yes, this is technically a point and click adventure, it didn’t feel like it. Most titles in the genre involve puzzles to solve by using items you have collected, but Dreambreak seems to split the two up. You solve puzzles and collect items, but they don’t intertwine. This is unfortunate because this makes item collecting almost no fun. There is no trial and error to experiment with things to see what item works where. Every item you find is immediately used on the same screen, making it seem rather pointless. The puzzles, while somewhat varied, feel much more in line with a platformer than a point and click. I felt like I had to run and jump over more obstacles than solve them mentally. The actual puzzles are ridiculously simple, ranging from activating switches to a plumbing puzzle (similar to Bioshock’s hacking puzzle without a time limit). I wouldn’t say the puzzles are “boring” since there’s enough variety to keep the gameplay from getting tedious, but it does beg the question why items aren’t used for solving any puzzles. There is also a basic shooting mechanic in some locations in the game. This is nothing more than clicking one way to shoot and one way to guard, but this aspect does help keep gameplay interesting and diverse.
Though the gameplay is flawed, the controls are what hinder Dreambreak. Since there is much more side-scrolling than puzzle solving, it’s difficult to time jump at the proper time. I died countless times on a single screen because I couldn’t outrun a laser. You can use your mouse or arrow keys to play, but I found myself using the arrow keys much more often because it felt more natural for side-scrolling, and continuously clicking the mouse to make your character move becomes monotonous rather quickly. Sometimes your character doesn’t respond to where you click either, which makes things frustrating, and forced me to exit the game then reload it. It didn’t take too long to get used to the clunkiness of the controls, but they are noticeable.
What’s most unfortunate to me though is the length of Dreambreak, lasting only 2 hours or so. I wished the game were longer so that I could experience more of this dystopian city and its people. There are two endings to discover, but there isn’t anything else to explore or do after a single playthrough. Collecting the individual tracks of music can be done as you play; no disc is in a hard to reach location or requires a certain item. Dreambreak’s controls and gameplay may be faulty, but the beautiful graphics and music make it worth your time.