Dream Chronicles (XBLA)
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2010-11-07 Xbox 360 Puzzle E (Everyone) Hudson Entertainmen / Playfirst

Dream Chronicles originated back in 2007 as a casual hidden object puzzle adventure PC game, sprouting some more sequels as the years went by. Recently, and with the increasing popularity of casual games on XBLA, Dream Chronicles joined the Xbox 360 Live Arcade ranks. But how successfully?

For those not familiar, Dream Chronicles revolves around Faye, a woman who one day wakes up to find her husband Fidget missing and the entire town of Wish enveloped in a sleeping spell. Aided by clues left behind by her husband in the form of a journal, Faye sets off in search of a solution to put an end to the Fairy Queen of Dreams' spell.

The gameplay in Dream Chronicles is that of any other point and click adventure. You find objects, which automatically go into your inventory, and then make sense of what to do with them. You use the different objects to solve the puzzle in the given room you are in before you are able to move on the next.

Most puzzles can be solved with little to no thinking, as they are fairly obvious: find the pieces, place them in the appropriate spots. Finding the pieces, however, is sometimes not that obvious as they blend in with the backgrounds. But to completely counteract the simple puzzles found in some areas, you will be left scratching your head at the complexity of others, especially close to the end of the adventure, where there are too many items to be picked up and placed in a series of puzzles.

Aside from the puzzles themselves, there is little else to interact with. You can collect dream gems which are tiny colored crystals sprinkled in any scene, which will be placed in the journal to form pieces of jewelry. Most of them are just too easy to miss, especially those right at the start in the doll house. I was pretty upset when I solved the puzzle and was then locked out from the doll house, which forced me to move on and not be able to pick up the gems.

As for the controls, they are fairly simple but not intuitive enough. While on the PC you can easily and quickly move across the screen with the mouse, here the movement with the left analog drags and takes you a few seconds to see your cursor move from one side of the screen to the other. You can press X to speed up the cursor, but when some items are hidden off-screen, you must use the right analog to pan the view and look around further up, down or to the sides. So pressing X and using the two analogs to pick up an item and then move it somewhere else is a bit of a pain. Being able to customize the controls would have been a welcome feature.

In fact, you can't just pick up and hold an item on your cursor, since it immediately goes to your inventory. It would have been useful to include this in puzzles where rearranging items in the same screen is in order. The margin of error to pick up small items is also pretty unforgiving, so a zoom-in feature would be another welcome addition.

You may think of Dream Chronicles as something like Myst just by looking at the style of artwork, but unfortunately, the game world isn't that interactive and only composed of still images. Sure, they are still pretty to look at, but there are no animations aside from a few glittering spots indicating something to be found, or something simple related to the completion of a puzzle. There are no passing clouds, leaves rustling in the wind or birds flying by.

On the positive side, the artwork is nice, the backgrounds are colourful and detailed, the music is fantastic and fits the mysterious and magical theme. There is a multiplayer option, but it doesn't add much to the experience aside from the opportunity to yell at someone else while they scramble to find something on the screen. I expected to see some animated sequences and voice acting presenting the story, or some kind of added content or bonus levels. Details and ideas that would have made the game come alive just aren't there, and call me picky, but somehow I expected a little more than just a port of this three-year-old game.

Special thanks to Jean Son and Hudson Entertainment for providing a copy of this title.