Dreams (PS4 Pro) Review – The Unattainable is Unknown
DreamsFebruary 14th, 2020
MediaMolecule is such an interesting edge case in the gaming industry. When not making charming titles like Tearaway, they're building the foundation for creation tools and packing them up within the premise of an all-ages video game. We saw this time after time with the LittleBigPlanet series, although most creations in that were limited to a two-dimensional space. Now, after years of teases and early access testing, the full version of Dreams is upon us.
In truth, when I sat down to start plotting out my review for Dreams, I didn't know where to start. Whenever I play titles like LittleBigPlanet or RPG Maker, I'm always taking the role of a consumer rather than a producer. I leave it to the more talented and creative types to craft experiences on these platforms and quietly reap the rewards once a new creation is uploaded to the internet. There's a small moment of pride any time I log into a platform and find out that one of the creators I follow has uploaded a new experience.
Dreams opens with a three-hour playable showcase called Art's Dream. If you've seen the pictures of the jazz ensemble from previous demos of Dreams, that's where it has all culminated. This series of Dreams showcases a wide range of genres that are supported in Dreams: action platformers, on-rail shooters, point-and-click adventures, and even a couple of rhythm sequences. It's all a pretty novel experience and worth giving a play once you pick up a copy of Dreams (plus the collectibles you earn carry forth into new stamps and items to mess around within the creation mode). If all you're looking for is what MediaMolecule has packed on the disc, Dreams isn't the right purchase for you because you'll be finished with the on-disc experiences within a day. It's the lasting power of exploring the Dreams of other creators that really gives this title its true potential.
What makes Dreams such a powerful platform for creativity is that, to quote the late Zombocom, "You can do anything.. Anything at all. The only limit is yourself.". This mantra is no less true today than when I first heard it two decades ago. Genres that I didn't think possible to be created with a PS4 controller were suddenly in my hands. One moment I'm solving puzzles from The Witness, another I'm listening to a musical composition of Gwyn, Lord of Cinder recreated with a single piano in Dreams.
Finding new Dreams to enjoy is part of the curation that MediaMolecule has put together in Dreams. Just loading into the DreamSurfing main page offers players a plethora of choice: winners of the first annual IMPY awards, new and trending dreams, community jams, various collections, and more all the way down to granular individual tags. If you're ever unsure with what to play, there's even an Autosurf function to load up a random assortment of Dreams that curates as you give each one you're experiencing a quick thumbs up or down.
Early on, and this is coming after a somewhat lengthy Early Access period in Dreams, many experiences in the Dreamsverse are still works in progress or early proofs of concept. For every complete experience that I enjoyed, I would find another two or three that are slowly building up. This gives me hope for the future and what Dreams may come, but those that want to jump in and start exploring the creations may want to hold off for a short while. Or, in the meantime, you can pick up a copy of Dreams and begin creating your own experiences with Dream Shaping.
The only thing that can hold you back in Dreams from unleashing your creativity is knowing how to work with the tools you're given. Dreams offers three control schemes for the creative mode Dream Shaping: dual analog sticks, motion control via tilting the DualShock 4, and two Move controllers. Each of these have their own unique strengths and weaknesses but I found myself slightly hindered with trying to navigate between windows and note charts when I tried to create a simple saxophone loop. Having support for keyboard and mouse would alleviate much of the control issues myself, but I'm just an outlier when it comes to controls in general. After seeing people make full demos of Fallout 4 with only the controllers that came with their console, I'm a believer that Dreams can come true once you learn how to use the controllers to their fullest potential.
MediaMolecule doesn't pick up the player and throw them into a pool of untapped potential. Nearly every tool in the Dreams toolbox comes with a series of video tutorials that guide you along as you learn the ropes. There are no grades or right answers to these tutorials and no in-game instructor is going to call you out for deviating from the videos. These exist as a picture-in-picture video merely meant to guide you along and help to spark creativity by explaining how a tool works and how to put it to use. Master Class tutorials that show up later on cover the concepts of Dream Shaping in greater depth and showcase how to use multiple concepts to set up a scene or element.
Dreams is only in its infancy at the moment and I fully expect to see the full potential of the platform take months to achieve. However, even days after its official release, there are already a great number of Dreams that give me hope for the platform. Even multiplayer and PlayStation VR support are both in development and should arrive sooner rather than later. This is one creative platform that I hope persists for a long time and even makes its way onto next-generation consoles. If you've had a great idea for a game, stop dreaming how to do it and do it instead (in Dreams).
Review code provided by the publisher.
Dreams builds upon that premise of LittleBigPlanet that 'if you build it, they will come'. MediaMolecule has outdone themselves with this suite of creative tools and I look forward to seeing what Dreams may come over the next year.
- Art's Dream campaign shows off the potential for great dream design
- Supports far more genres than just platforming
- Full creation suite, from music generation to prop creation and complete scenes with only a PlayStation controller
- Indreams.me website helps to find new experiences while on the go
- Full platform suite could eventually make its way to PS5 or PC
- All creations will be 100% free
- Default platforming and jumping has a strange weightless sensation
- Controller input takes some getting used to before it feels intuitive
- Most Dreamiverse experiences are only proofs of concept at this point
- Can't queue up Dreams from the Indreams.me website