You know, we often live inside our own heads and that can be a tough place to be. However, sharing that space with someone else can be of tremendous help, but not always the easiest thing to do.
Well, what if we could give someone permission to go into our heads and wander around in our memories. Experience them as we experienced them to help give perspective on why we are the way that we are as a person now.
That’s exactly what Top Hat Studio’s most recent title Into a Dream is all about. Luke Williams is a brilliant scientist suffering from crippling depression and John Stevens is his only hope for a way out. John is able to go through Luke’s mind and help put the pieces together that make up the enigma that is Luke’s current mental state. But, did this narrative adventure tick all the boxes or were we left looking for that clean bill of health?
I can’t say I’ve played a lot of games like Into a Dream where they were 90% narrative based. I mean I’ve played Visual Novels before but this is wholly different. Into a Dream kind of gently carries you through the sequential events pertaining to Luke Steven’s depression with only very light instances of platforming or puzzles. I think it was a very unique experience overall and a very enjoyable one to boot.
Although up until recently, I had very little knowledge of Into a Dream, I do however have some familiarity with playing games like it which have a major focus on the narrative. They may not exactly be my cup of tea, but every now and again, I get in the mood for a chill experience that allows me to sit, relax, and enjoy the ride. I mean, not having to beat your head off of hordes of enemies can be a nice change of pace, you know?
Luckily, Into a Dream seemed to fit the bill, and with it’s silhouette styled aesthetics, à la Limbo, we were ready to pop that popcorn and dive in for a night of interactive storytelling!
For a game whose primary focus is to have you wander around, talking to people, solving very minimalistic puzzles, and unravelling a gut wrenching narrative of a man suffering from debilitating depression, grief, and guilt, I found that Into a Dream held up surprisingly well!
Like I said, I’m not typically a fan of purely story-based games, but the way that Into a Dream was written and paced, I couldn’t help but want to keep playing! I needed to know what was happening, and I needed to understand how everything tied together! Filipe F. Thomaz did a masterful job of guiding you through the mind of Luke (the focal point of the story), as you try to understand him, and the growth between him and John (the protagonist). It was truly endearing, thoughtful, and engaging.
While the content can inevitably get very dark and brooding as a result of how this game was put together, all in all it made for a very pleasant adventure. I absolutely loved the voice acting in this game. Something about the menagerie of different accents and just the natural way in which they had conversations really drew me in and kept me there. It’s no simple feat for a game’s story to make me feel that invested in every character, but this game did it 100%. The silhouette art style with the occasional pops of color only added to the already endearing atmosphere. While the character animation was definitely a little awkward, there really wasn’t much of it and I’m glad the developers chose to spend time perfecting other things instead.
The storytelling and pacing was done perfectly. Conversations flowed naturally and everything was set up to immerse you into the narrative and keep you interested while also not completely keeping you in the dark the entire game either. There were a few moments where you are given dialogue choices and I can’t imagine either choice would dovetail the story too greatly, but I’ve yet to replay it to find out. John’s mission is made clear in the beginning that his purpose is to seek out the root of Luke’s depression, so the choices we made were generally whatever we thought would give us the most information. Though, upon completing the game I’m not sure it really mattered other than to give us, the player, more context.
This is a game I could honestly see becoming a series and I would totally be down with that. Each game is a new character that needs help working through some mental strife and John gets sent in to help them out. I would be all about that.
Despite the driving force that was its story, there were some hiccups while playing Into a Dream. Nothing too major, but nonetheless they at times pulled me from the experience. The primary one being the addition of awkward platforming and climbing sections. Compounded with the stiff and unnatural animations of the main character while doing so, I felt that these sections just seemed superfluous and out of place. In my mind, I think it would have been better to remove those portions completely, and focus more on the adventure game style puzzle solving mechanics. Which I very much enjoyed, and if we were to see more games like it from the dev, that would be the one gameplay aspect I would most definitely keep. Aside from the narrative of course. I found that giving the player something to do, other than being absorbed by the story, was a nice distraction.
If I could say it a thousand times, I would, but I highly recommend Into a Dream! Honestly, it took me by surprise, and I was instantly hooked within the first few minutes. Not only was it a gorgeous game to look at, but the writing was on point and engaging, and the voice acting was soothing and pleasant to listen to.
I’m thinking if you’re in the mood for something chill, with a gripping story, that’s not too much of a time investment, then I’d say give Into a Dream a try!
I definitely think Into a Dream is a game worth playing. It’s a short, relaxing narrative where there’s no real chance of failure. Aside from the few platforming/puzzle moments the game plays out much like a good tv show, so it would be a great opportunity to grab a drink and a snack and snuggle up on the couch for an easygoing evening.
So it seems like Into a Dream and Filipe F. Thomaz are due a full round of applause, at least from us here at the Backlog Odyssey. We both found the overall experience to be a surprisingly gratifying one, despite a few minor criticisms.
With all that’s been said though, there is one big caveat to all of this. Unfortunately, during our playthrough, we encountered a progress halting bug in the final chapter. Even though, through perseverance to see the end, we were able finish it, this might affect many people’s experience. We did however, contact Top Hat and the developer to let them know, and they’re currently looking into a fix. So, even though we highly recommend checking out Into a Dream, you may want to wait for an update so you can see it through to the end without any major roadblocks.