The past few years have been incredible for a certain type of genre lovers. Point and click adventure games have made a beautiful resurgence and I have been in heaven. Now Cockroach Inc. has merged yet another thing I love with adventure games, claymation. The Dream Machine is a surreal and dark adventure through the world of dreams and every frame of it is painstakingly rendered in clay.
I’ve always been a fan of claymation. There’s something about its unique look that fascinates me regardless of how bad the actual final product is (Gumby). Yet, claymation is almost exclusively used to make content for children. The Dream Machine’s unique style is not only not made for children, but it is incredibly unsettling and almost off putting and works beautifully. Throughout the first three episodes, and I assume the yet to be released fourth and fifth, there is meant to be something dark and ominous looming and the art, most specifically the character design, helps create that sense of unease.
The titular Dream Machine is not an unassuming portal into the world of imagination, it’s mysterious force whose purpose is slowly revealed over the three episodes. I was pleasantly surprised at the twists the story vered on. Adventure games live and die by their writing and plot and while The Dream Machine is definitely fascinating, it feels like more of a novice effort. Hopefully the next two episodes will elevate this idea to its fullest potential.
Even though Cockroach Inc. has had their fare share at making adventure games, this harkens back to the games of yesteryear in a more unflattering way. It wasn’t until the third episode, but I ran into a few puzzles that had me banging my head against the wall due to their obtuse and somewhat illogical solutions. Up until then, everything flowed so logically that the steps I had to take didn’t seem to make any sense.
The Dream Machine is the tale of Victor and his quest to make his new environment safe for his pregnant wife. After finding a cryptic message from the previous tenant, he discovers a strange machine that is trying to force its way into his mind and those of everyone around him. Even then, all is not as it seems.
What is perfectly clear is just how much effort was taken to make this world a living, yet not breathing reality. The title screen reads: “The Dream Machine, a point and click adventure game made out of clay and cardboard” and that is exactly what this is. If anything, it’s worth the price of entry alone just to see what a modern claymation game is like (oh how I miss the Neverhood). There is a demo on steam so you can see it for yourself, but I would recommend it simply because it tries to do something different.
Those few missteps are incredibly unfortunate because when everything did gel, I was enthralled. Dreams fascinate me and the ideas at work here proved to translate well into the medium. Each episode left the characters in a place that I was chomping at the bit to continue from. Unfortunately while the first three episodes are out on Steam, according to Cockroach’s site, the demo was released in 2009 and that is the end of any sort of update. Hopefully they will hear our pleas and finish episode 4 soon.