Daydreamer: Awakened Edition is a unique game that has one of the most distinct styles I have seen in a long time. The game is weird, wonderful and has some interesting gameplay mechanics.
I can’t tell you how often I used to daydream in class at school, although I never met any grotesque creatures (well the odd teacher) and this is how the game starts. As you awaken, you are greeted by a ginormous beast known as the Gate Keeper. The Gate Keeper tells you that the world around you is just a dream and you’re transported to another realm full of horrific monsters. The game comes from developer Roland Studios’ and I was instantly fascinated by the bizarre worlds and creativity of the creatures. Daydreamer is a 2D platformer with 3D characters and layered environments. You are the last remaining human after the rest of the human race was wiped out many years ago and you’ve been kept in a statis chamber until now.
This is a 2D platformer with lots of shooting and a relatively retro feel. The controls do feel a little clumsy at times but in general the game does have some interesting mechanics and abilities to use throughout. You can jump and double jump to reach high ledges and platforms and you can use the back triggers to ‘warp’ left and right respectively. Climbing up ledges can feel a bit cumbersome and when things are getting harder later in the game the awkward movement starts to become more obvious.
The stages or environments you play though are varied and well designed, with lifts, ledges, drops, obstacles and monsters to contend with. You can also use a bubble shield that can deflect incoming bullets and the warp mechanic is extremely handy when it comes to quickly moving around enemies and attacking from behind. The first stage is fairly simple and introduces you to the mechanics of the game, which also involves using slow motion and even summoning small pets to help you make progress. You can use melee attacks to take out enemies close by, which all have a small health bar above their heads. There are weapons you can pick up as you fight through stages and these help you out a lot. The shooting feels decent enough but the aiming can feel a bit sporadic and tricky to pick out specific enemies.
The gameplay feels good but the camera is zoomed in quite far, meaning you don’t get to see much of the layout around you. The world feels claustrophobic, which I think is a design choice that actually works well. The game has horror elements, with the Claymation-style enemies that look like something out of a disturbing horror movie or some sort of nightmare. The enemies also vary in size, from small creepy monstrosities to large bosses that include things like rabid bunnies. Despite the game having a disturbing aesthetic, it actually still has an awesome sense of humour that shines throughout.
The level design is varied and each stage has entrance and exit chambers to reach and take you to the next area. The bosses are far more challenging than the regular enemies, and the first boss was truly bizarre and looked like a large deformed version of ET, with a strange bulbous stomach. The second was a huge white rabbit, that lays explosive eggs and shoots red lasers from his eyes. I found that the warp ability became very useful during these large boss encounters because it allows you to quickly jump behind them and attack.
The presentation of the game is utterly unique but still has similarities to traditional sidescrolling platformers. The camera is cropped closer, like a Donkey Kong game, and the 3D elements really make the world interesting to look at. The title of the game is very apt, as it always feels like you’re in a dream, or actually some sort of horrific nightmare. The style of the game may put some players off but I was completely absorbed by the unusual style and tone of the game. It almost feels like the world was made out of clay and the animations move in an unsettling way that sends shivers down your spine. The sound design is also great and suits the overall tone of the game. The music is mysterious and the sound effects work well.
I didn’t really have too many issues with the game apart from the odd difficulty spike and there could have been more of a narrative running throughout, although not having it does add to the mystery and feeling that you’re falling deeper into some sort of nightmare. The controls are also a little bit awkward but it never really impacted my progress too much.
Overall Daydreamer: Awakened Edition is a unique game with some awesome ideas and brilliant character design, as well as intriguing worlds to fight through. As you progress you pick up weapons to blast through a variety of hideous monstrosities and giant beasts. It undoubtedly feels like you’re descending into a chaotic and horrific nightmare but there are still moments of humour that keeps things lighthearted. I would certainly recommend this game but don’t expect the controls to feel that great and the shooting can feel a little awkward at times, despite its issues it’s an absorbing experience.
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