Up until recently casual gamers were only able to get their fix on PC, be it standalone titles such as Peggle or Facebook apps like Farmville. With services such as XBLA and WiiWare, many of these previously PC only games have been appearing for download to core gaming console gamers. To me this is great news; I don’t always want to shoot aliens with plasma rifles. Sometimes I am just in the mood for a bit of a relax with a time wasting puzzle game. Before this I’d have had to sit at my desk to play some of these casual titles, but their emergence on consoles means I can sit back on the couch to play and even earn some handy achievements at the same time. Who here possibly thinks that this isn’t a Win Win for everyone?
Dream Chronicles is a slow paced title that mixes traditional lateral puzzle solving with the hidden object formula. The game has already been out on PC for years and has even spawned some sequels, this is the first time to my knowledge that such a game has appeared on XBLA outside of the Indie/Community games section.
The story goes like this; An evil Fairy called Lilith who is obsessed with people dreaming has cast a deep-sleep spell across the land. Luckily another Fairy named Fidget has managed to wake one person up from this deep slumber with the last of his power. Faye is her name and she is who you control on this magical adventure in search for Fidget and the solution needed to break the spell on everyone (including your dear daughter). Your ultimate goal is to reach Lilith’s mansion but on your way there you’ll encounter many obstacles on your path. For whatever reason your path is littered with locked doors, secret passages and hidden keys. Only thorough investigation and a dollop of puzzle solving will be good enough if you want to progress. Rather uniquely for the genre, Dream Chronicles allows you to zoom in to the area by around 25%, this extra magnification allows you to spot objects that may have previously been hidden or obscured, it’s certainly a nice addition and adds a well needed sense of depth to the areas.
Let me provide you with a few examples of what you can expect; In the first scene you need to escape your bedroom. Now you might think just walking out the door would be easy but typically that nasty old fairy has cast an ice spell on the door, some searching of the room will reveal a pot of matches. A spot of logic later reveals that lighting the fireplace will melt the Ice Spell and make the door accessible once again. That sounds simple doesn’t it? Well don’t be worried, things get more complex as you go. How about having use your memory to correctly play tunes on a piano or turn lights on in a special sequence to light a room, not so simple now eh?
Typically each scene in the game requires you to complete just one puzzle but some of the further complications come when you first have to find a series of hidden objects in the scene. Let’s say you need to cross a rope bridge before you can reach the puzzle, well first up you’ll need to repair it. So you’ll need to find some tools and materials hidden around the area. Many a time you may spot the object you require quite easily but other times they’re hidden more deviously. I once spent fifteen minutes looking for a green crayon hidden on a green bush. As well as objects you’ll also want to be on the lookout for Dream Stones, these shiny magical gems will collect in your journal and provide you with some interesting background information on the fairy realm. They’re not essential to complete the game but if you can find them all, expect achievements.
To vary things up a bit, many of the hidden objects are randomly scattered around the areas each time you run the game. This at least makes re-playability much more of a possibility than many other hidden object games that I’ve played before. Your first run through the game will likely take three for four hours, this may not seem that long but if you want to find everything the game has to offer you will need to replay the game for sure. It’s just not possible to complete the game in under 20 minutes and unlock the most sacred achievement award unless you’ve memorised the object locations. On the other hand neither will you complete all of the Dream Jewels in your journal without spending a great time looking for every single gem, this means at least 3 full play throughs.
The addition of local and online COOP turns what could normally be a fairly boring solo experience into a rather unique multiplayer scenario. Both players get a cursor and can hunt for different objects at the same time and perhaps this will save you a great deal of solo effort. Not to mention the fact that your friend may well spot something you’re overlooking, the saying two heads are better than one wasn’t just made up for nothing you know.
Hidden object games quite often feature pretty graphics and Dream Chronicles for XBLA is no exception, featuring 18 very nicely drawn locations and the sort a whimsical music score that wouldn’t be out of place in a health spa. Okay so the game won’t actually impress your FPS playing friends but blow it, sometimes you just need to chill out with a puzzle game and not feel guilty about it. Dream Chronicles gets a rather good 7 out of 10.