It’s tough to imagine Media Molecule, developers behind the insanely successful ‘Little Big Planet’ series, were ever going to give us a “traditional” gaming experience. After all, Little Big Planet was built on its unique concept – a game where the player was given a massive bag of tools to create platforming levels to their heart’s desire. Fans adored this unconventional approach to gaming and reveled in the ability to build and to play what they wanted to. Fast forward to 2020, and Media Molecule is back at it again, only this time, they’re not bringing a bag of tools – they’re bringing a needle and thread so you can sew your own bag together. Dreams is the culmination of a decade of ideas, and it’s executed to near perfection. This is the game that a countless number of people who have ever picked up a controller have dreamed about.
Dreams comes in two distinct flavors, and both of them offer a limitless level of intrigue and re-playability. Dream Surfing is where you’re going to find all of the user-created content, as well as stuff made by Media Molecule themselves. It’s staggering upon your first bit of scrolling just how many creations are available already, and I could sit here for hours and go through everything I’ve seen so far. Skateboarding games, first-person shooters, platformers, musical-based games, and turn-based RPGs are just a sliver of the genres I’ve come across in the past week, and all of them show incredible promise and potential. This isn’t only limited to games either – everything from music, still frame images, dioramas, movies, and live stand-up comedy performances (to name a few!) are all things that you’ll routinely come across as you dream surf.
An important thing to keep in mind through these early months of Dreams is that much of the stuff that’s uploaded right now just hasn’t had the time to be fleshed out and fully realized yet. There’s a brilliant mock-up of Hogwarts that you’re able to wander through, for example, but many of the rooms are missing or unfinished. Thankfully, Dreams offers the player the ability to not only follow along with individual creations but creators themselves, making it incredibly simple to track and stay up-to-date with the latest happenings of your favorite projects. It’s also to the player’s benefit that the menus are relatively simple to navigate, but more importantly, they’re excessively snappy and responsive. A game like Dreams that relies so heavily on the uploading and hosting of user-created content could have easily been crushed under the weight of itself if the overall navigation became a sluggish chore while things rendered in the background. This isn’t the case, as it’s easy, quick, and intuitive to snap into a game, play for a while, back out to the menu, and jump into something else. You can do all of that within seconds, and it feels great.
The Dream You Never Had
When I say that Dreams gives you the ability to create anything you can think of, I can’t stress enough just how much I mean the word anything. Every time I turn the game on, I find I’m remarking to myself that I can’t believe the quality of the stuff I’m seeing. Dream Shaping is where you’ll find everything you need to create the game you’ve always wanted. Be warned though, this isn’t an easy thing to get into, and your first few times through the Dream Shaping side of the game might make your head spin, but stick with it and what you’ll find is one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll have ever had with a controller in your hands.
To get you started, Media Molecule has built an impressive number of tutorials that will teach you everything from how to maneuver the camera, creating objects in your world, animating characters, recording music, sculpting 3D models, and so much more. I won’t lie; this was highly daunting at first. It’s easy to figure out where to go in terms of what you should be learning next, but just the sheer amount of information you need to be prepared to take on isn’t for the faint of heart. Dreams is a deep creation tool, and you must familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of it before you’ll be able to do anything. The tutorials do a great job of walking you through what you’re being taught, with a picture-in-picture box showing an example of what the narrator is teaching you. After completing a tutorial, you’ll be rewarded with items that you can now use in your own creations, and this is another area Media Molecule knocked out of the park – consistently rewarding players, and encouraging creativity.
In doing nearly anything in Dreams, you’re rewarded with new assets that can be used as you see fit. These can range from music, character models, items, or anything else that you can think of that you would find in a game. This is where Media Molecule distinguishes Dreams from a creation tool that you’d find on PC. Dreams isn’t supposed to be a competitor to a Unity or a GameMaker: Studio, for example. Dreams is still a game, first and foremost, and while the creation tool is more in-depth than anything we’ve ever seen on a console, it respects the fact that we’re still here to have fun. Media Molecule does a fantastic job of keeping you interested in what you’re doing, but maybe more importantly, they keep you excited to continue to learn, and that’s thanks in large part to feeling like you’re constantly expanding your workspace.
Dreaming of a Keyboard and Mouse
There’s one caveat with Dreams, however, and this could very well be something that differs from person to person, but Dreams would benefit immensely from keyboard and mouse support. There are three control schemes available, two of them which use the Dualshock 4. The default scheme uses your controller’s lightbar to maneuver your cursor, while the other allows for you to use your sticks. The third control scheme makes use of the PS4 Move Controllers, which turn out to be a bit more accurate, but the navigation becomes even more complicated with these. The default scheme feels the best, but none of them are ideal, by any means. The learning curve is already steep enough – add on top of that figuring out how to even just navigate the camera in your scene, and it can make for a frustrating first few hours.
Dreams is incredible. It’s what I and so many others have wanted from the time we fell in love with video games. It’s a limitless playground for those that have ever dreamt of the perfect video game – but it’s okay if you haven’t! Because Dreams is also a limitless playground for those that just want to sit back and enjoy the ride. There’s an endless amount of content here, and we’re only in the early infancy of Dreams. Creations are generally basic at the moment, but I can’t wait to see what this looks like in one year, three years, five years, and beyond. Dreams is one of those rare things that I genuinely believe every single PS4 owner should experience. I never want to wake up.
***PS4 review code provided by the publisher***
- Incredible Ingenuity
- Unparalleled Potential
- Runs Extremely Well
- User Creations
- Helps To Build Real Skills
- Controls Aren’t Great
- STEEP Learning Curve