Dreams Review: Unrestrained Imagination

Plenty of games like to promise people they’ll be able to do whatever they want, but there are always still clear boundaries to constrain players. With Dreams, the new game of living imaginations from Media Molecule, those walls either don’t exist or are at least nearly impossible to find. The game offers players what’s essentially limitless possibilities when it comes to turning their visions into an in-game reality, and looking throughout what others have made is often as fun – if not more fun – than building things yourself.

The game from the creators of the LittleBigPlanet series has two basic functions: Creating or exploring concepts designed by both Media Molecule and the community for everyone to enjoy. These creations often take the forms of games, some of them simple and others much more extravagant, but it can be anything from a musical number to a work of art frozen in time.

What’s most impressive about these creations is the fact that they’re built with an unbelievable level of control Dreams players have been given through relatively simple tools. The tools players have seem imposing at first when you see what someone else has made and wonder how you could ever come close to such a concept when you’re just tugging blocks around a map and struggling to get angles right, but Dreams does its absolute best to welcome newcomers into its boundless ideas. The tutorial process lasts as long as players want it to before they cut themselves loose and start creating, and the constant reassurance during that process means you won’t get dissuaded from your ideas easily. There’s a refreshing level of confidence placed on players that simply isn’t found in other builder games.

But as much as Dreams wants players to build things, it’s cool with you ignoring part of the game entirely and just checking out what other people have done. That’s what I prefer to do in Dreams: Go see what the rest of the community has been able to do with the building tools at their disposal. Exploring the Dream-verse can eat up hours of your time without you ever growing tired of it since every creation you look at is almost guaranteed to be completely different from the last one.

Dreams lets players dish out commendations to creators by giving them a thumbs up which acts as a rating system to recommend projects to other people, and no matter how basic a creation might be, most you come across are worthy of a thumbs up for the sheer effort that goes into them if nothing else. Instead of making players feel small like they can’t come close to creating something someone else made, Dreams bolsters a sense of comradery and empowerment in the community by constantly showcasing the best people have to offer.

It’d be a nice story to say I wasn’t sold on Dreams until I found that one creation someone made that spoke to me, but the truth is there hasn’t been a creation I’ve visited yet that didn’t get a thumbs up. The first game I tried was a left-handed chef game where the player could only use one of the chef’s arms to cook a meal before the timer went off. It had a distinct Surgeon Simulator feel to it that made it both ridiculous and entertaining at the same time. Someone else built an impressive 3D portrait of Wolverine in a different project while another revisited the age of Space Invaders to make a simple but effective space shooter. You’ll come across some games that say they’re in beta or are just tests for projects where the creator said they want to build an entire RPG. It’s like browsing Kickstarter and seeing tons of shiny, inviting projects you’d like to support, but in this case, they’re already there for you to try.

If there were any complaints to be had about Dreams, it’d be the game’s control system. By using a PlayStation 4 controller, players are asked to use the device’s motion-tracking capability to move their “Imp” creator and other parts of the game around. Many games you play will ask players to use the normal thumbstick control scheme instead though, and you can always swap over to that layout yourself when you’re building, but both options take some time getting used to when you’re trying to fine-tune your projects to achieve the level of polish other creations have.

Though there are endless possibilities, there’s also the chance you won’t find exactly what you want every time you fire up Dreams to look around. Sometimes you’ll end up piddling around and browsing a few projects before deciding nothing suits your interest that day. Some play sessions can eat up hours while others can be quick, like turning on the TV and seeing nothing on you want to watch. Things change constantly in Dreams though, so even if there’s not something that catches your eye for a while, that could all change in a matter of days.

Dreams seems like a niche game from a first glance, but it’s impossible to truly appreciate what it has to offer until you see what it has to offer yourself. It feels like an arcade with unlimited plays for everyone and a museum encompassing every interest all wrapped into one game. Whether you’re there to build or just to look around, Dreams isn’t a game to miss.

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Rating: 4 out of 5

Dreams is now available for the PlayStation 4. A PlayStation 4 code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.

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