Platform(s): PlayStation 4
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: SCEI
Developer: Media Molecule
Release Date: Feb. 14, 2020


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PS4 Preview - 'Dreams'

by Redmond Carolipio on July 18, 2018 @ 3:00 a.m. PDT

Dreams is a sandbox game, an endless explorative journey where players can create and share their dreams, and then surf an endless dreamiverse of single assets, games, animation, music and everything in between.

"Death Stairs and Lava Pancakes." If that doesn't make any sense to you, it's not really supposed to. It's just the only way I could describe the level I hastily co-built in Dreams, the upcoming game/art space from Media Molecule, the ones responsible for the immensely bouncy and creative Little Big Planet series.

As the hurried name implies, my level had steps created from assembled ledges, floating platforms, and oddly placed lakes of lava that left them floating in the ether. But it was playable, with a techno/house/mash-up of a beat serving as music in the background.

Such chaos looks to be at the heart of Dreams, which isn't just a game with a variety of assembled, playable levels of varying themes, but also a user-friendly, next-level artistic springboard for anyone who has ever wondered what it'd be like to make things in the gaming space for people to play or experience. You could say we "played" Dreams at E3 2018, but that also seems too limiting. It seems more accurate to say we dove into the E3 demo and swam around in its creative waters.

The first screen I saw gave me the option of "dream surfing" or "dream shaping." Surfing is the exploration of playable, pre-made levels from the community, while shaping deals with building your own stuff from a vast foundation of tools and materials. We surfed a bit first, taking in the immense power of the game's main tool: the imp.

The imp is a customizable, floating super-cursor of sorts that's capable of fully manipulating anything you see on the screen (you'll make a lot of use of pulling and grabbing items), as well as being the central path of interaction with all of the game's other pieces. That includes the actual "possession" and control of any of the characters you encounter in any of the game's levels, also called "dreams."

One dream I played through was called the "tree house remix," where I took control of a cuddly, hammer-wielding, bow-wearing bear creature through an adorable forest setting that was filled with puzzles. Another dream had a dark, noir-ish art style to it, and one more featured puzzle-solving robots with a big boss mech at the end. All of the things I encountered on the screen were constructed from the game.

Two things struck me about the taste of the "dream shaping" editing mode we got. First, the sheer volume of what you can create is mind-boggling. Players can make anything from puzzle-littered platformers to full-blitz action shooters, so the untapped, artistic alternative version of myself can finally make the puzzle platforming boss-battle laden goofball experience I've always wanted to. That brings me to the second highlight of dream shaping: the intuitiveness of the tools.

I co-built my "lava pancake" level with Media Molecule's Tom Dallaway, who honestly did the lion's share of the work but also walked me through everything we did. In a matter of minutes, we used our imps to fill an empty space with ground that I was able to rotate and stretch out to make a linear path. The steps came from some easy copying and pasting, and the moving platforms were done with ease, the coolest part having to use the PS4's motion controls to outline the platforms' route. I could have had them just go up and down, but in my ambition, I tried to go for a circular motion that kind of worked. Then we added the lava lakes, which I decided to put in midair for the hell of it. Dallaway from Media Molecule built the background music with a layered sound editing system. With more time, we could have added more characters, environments and obstacles. All of this can feel a little overwhelming, but there are thankfully tutorials along the way to help players get used to everything.

Dreams was one of the more unusual but cooler titles at E3 simply because it was nearly impossible to corral into one label, which speaks to its originality. It's worth keeping an eye out for what the gaming world at large comes up with when the title releases later this year.

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