Dreamscaper is an action RPG rogue-like developed and published by Afterburn Studios. It launched for the Nintendo Switch and Steam/PC on August 5th of this year. From the start, the game establishes itself as telling an artistic and serious narrative. You play as a girl named Cassidy, and at night when she falls asleep you enter a dream world. This dream world is a pretty standard roguelike dungeon, and the goal of the game is to clear it completely. Every time you die in this dreamworld, Cassidy wakes up, and the next time you fall asleep you start at the beginning again. During the day, you use items you collect in the dream world to upgrade your character and unlock various equipment for your next dream run. The gameplay and setup here are very standard rogue-like. If you have ever played one, such as Hades, then this will feel very familiar.
Where this game differentiates itself from others is in its presentation and story. While playing as Cassidy at night in the dream world you explore her dreams and backstory. The first level of the dungeon is exploring her hometown, and she will comment on various memories she has in it as you explore. At the end of every level, you face a boss called Fear, and if you beat it you descend into the next level of Cassidy’s dream. Fighting a boss called Fear, exploring a character’s dreams, and collecting meaningful memories make it pretty clear this game is supposed to be an artistic and allegorical story. My main critique is that nothing is very subtle, especially in regards to the metaphors and themes the game is trying to explore.
During the night Cassidy delves into her dreams, emotions, and fears. During the day, however, everything is quite different. The game slowly opens up all the various things you can do in the world during the day, and almost all of your daytime actions will affect your next dream run. You eventually also unlock the ability to interact with various NPCs with who you can give gifts and develop relationships. As you get closer to people you learn more about them, Cassidy, and get bonuses in-game to boot. These character and world interactions make the game much more immersive and make an interactive world the player partially shapes.
Where Dreamscaper excels best is in its presentation. The music, sound effects, and graphics all blend well together to create a very interesting atmosphere. While the color palette tends to be a bit muddy, the graphics do a great job of setting the mood of the experience. The day and night world differ greatly, but both are interesting to explore, and switching between the two keeps things interesting. Every level in the main dream dungeon differs greatly in graphics as well, so you are never stuck in the same area too long. Although every time you enter the dream world you start at the same level and go down, so the first level grows both more tedious and boring as the game continues. Eventually, this also happens with the second level once you are pretty consistently clear it, but this downside is helped slightly by the fact that on every run you’re stronger. So you clear these first levels quicker the more you play, but they still feel like a chore at the start of your run mid to late game.
Overall, Dreamscaper has really strong and classic roguelike gameplay, combined with an artistic presentation and story. If you enjoy roguelikes, artsy, or story-heavy games then you are going to have a fun time. The game also isn’t light on content, it would take a good 40 or so hours to beat and plenty longer if you take your time or do some of the side content. It also is at a pretty reasonable price, 20-25$ full price, but it’s worth mentioning all versions are currently on sale for less than 20$. This game easily could have been more, and you get both quality and quantity with this game. I also would highly recommend this game if you have played the hit Hades, and enjoyed it or craved more. At the very least, if you enjoy storytelling in games, and artistic games then this one is worth a playthrough. I’m hesitant to recommend anyone to watch a playthrough though, the whole experience is much more enjoyable playing for yourself.
Score: 8 out of 10
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch