What is a dream?
Is it your imagination leaking through your mental barriers at night when you hit the snooze button on life? A subtle reminder to pursue the impossible? Motivation to chase tomorrow sunset? Much like the philosophy behind the human condition and our ability to escape to worlds within our own imagination, Media Molecules and their Dreams project is a game that defies the norm and can’t be slapped with a single label.
It’s not so much a game as it is an experience. Dreams is passion and creativity, art and limitless imagination all wrapped up within a collection of programming that shouldn’t even exist but somehow defies the odds. In an age where creativity feels like the rarest of commodities, Dreams springs to life with an abundance of resources that can be overwhelming at times but is designed to hold your hand like a digital lover.
Dreams is a game whose greatest strength and weakness is you, the player. You’re the architect of the amazing, the designer of the divine and the maestro of magic within its nearly limitless confines, but it all depends on just how far you’re willing to go to try your hand at shaping the impossible into digital reality.
To that end, Dreams wastes no time in getting you up to speed as a series of tutorials teach you the building block fundamentals of Media Molecules’ grand vision. Within Dreams is a game that lives up to its own hype: A truly limitless canvas upon which you can really do anything. While it can be intimidating at first, Dreams never shies away from encouraging you to always build something, using the full power of the Dreamspace to do everything from painting a picture to developing actual full-fledged games.
Mastering the 3D space of Dreams, its shortcuts and user interface aren’t a recipe for success but rather an inspiration. To that end, there’s a trio of control schemes designed to give you as much control as possible: You can stick to a traditional analogue stick system for getting around Dreams, enable the six-axis motion within the Dual Shock 4 or rely on a pair of PlayStation Move Wands to get the job done (I have a pair on the way), with each system having its own pros and cons.
Whatever your choice of input, Dreams still feels natural and organic in how it allows you to move around its space and learn its many many systems. Whereas other high-end game creation software suites have elements on top of more elements at first glance, Dreams does everything it can to make the entire process slim and to the point, only filling your screen with what’s needed at any given time and having a tutorial ready for whatever it is that boggles your mind.
These lessons are a proper godsend, masterclasses in design helmed by Media Molecule and the many talented hands that make up the studio as they gently teach what you want to know and a few tricks to memorise along the way. The entire visual language of Dreams, arguably the most important part of the package and how it sells itself to you, is one that is conveyed with warmth and friendliness as it breaks down barriers and dips you into the toyetic world of the Dreamiverse.
There’s no shortage of templates either, quick loads of assets that are made to be played around with and experimented on as you find your groove and engage your grey matter on building anything you want to. All of this is best summed up within Dreams’ very own short story, Art’s Dream. It’s only a handful of hours in length but it’s a whirlwind tour through the ambition of Dreams, crafting a tale told through multiple game genres and motivating you to try your hand at telling your own story.
It’s the community section of Dreams where all of its various ideas coalesce into pure magic right now. Sure, there’s some absolute shovelware doing the rounds but the cream that rises to the top is nothing short of astounding. I’ve been spending a LOT of time playing with other people’s creations from the Dreamiverse, and have been gobsmacked with what the most talented hands have managed to design so far.
I’ve seen faithful recreations of classic games, brave new franchises born and genres impossibly mashed together to create something unique. I’ve seen train smashes and masterpieces that should be hung in the Louvre of Paris, retro remakes and tongue-in-cheek parodies. All this, in only a few days since Dreams went live and beyond the walls of the Creator’s Early Access period.
Even better, if you happen to like a particular creation you can grab it and remix it into something else that you can tinker away on. There’s a certain thrill in finding something awe-inspiring on the Dreams Community Board, ripping it apart and studying its internals to see how it was built and to use that digital DNA as inspiration for your own project with a bit of seamless splicing just adds to the team effort appeal of Dreams.
What Media Molecule has done is worthy of all the praise being lobbed at it. Make no mistake, Dreams is a game with a certain appeal that borders on the niche but has to be experienced at least once in a lifetime. It’s currently a wild west of ideas but its greatest community achievements are easily standing out from the pack and the road ahead is paved with nothing but infinite potential.
It is the next best thing to creating video games aside from enrolling in a university course to pursue that goal and create the next blockbuster. Dreams feels like the sum total of everything that Media Molecule has worked towards since it was established, combining the warmth of Little Big Planet with an eye on encouraging gamers to be the next great architect in the industry.
A project with no equal, Dreams is that game and experience, the one that will stand the test of time and be remembered as a defining benchmark in what video games are truly capable of in the years to come. The story may just have started, but the dream will never end.
Last Updated: February 18, 2020