Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2006-06-03 Xbox Adventure M (Mature) Aspyr / Funcom

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I'll be honest: the first thing that caught my eye about Dreamfall was the colorful graphics. Usually, I'll be looking at storyline and character profiles before deciding what I want to play, but this time the graphical aspect of the game had me captivated right from the start.

Dreamfall begins with a very strange event at a monastery, some sort of ritual where a man is transported into a frozen tundra, only to find a blackness destroying it and engulfing him. Next thing, we see a girl laying in bed. She tells us her story: her name is Zoe Castillo, and she has fallen into a coma. I was already lost and thinking "what an odd way to begin a game" when Zoe takes us back to two weeks earlier, when she was still in good health and walking about. So here we are, finally in Zoe's shoes, to see how everything began. But what exactly began?

It all starts when she begins seeing something that's almost like watching The Ring tape. A black and white grainy movie, with an old house and a ghostly little girl asking for help. At first, she doesn't make much sense of it, but then Zoe's life and that of those around her begins to have some serious and very strange turn of events. Then, after doing a small favor for a friend and picking up a package for him, Zoe finds herself in some sticky situations with a dead body, soldiers, police interrogations and her best friend?s disappearance. It's up to you, as Zoe, to find out what the heck is going on and why does a bunch of people seem to want you dead.

Yes, the first chapter gives you enough to puzzle you, giving you a glimpse of what the story promises, which automatically makes you want to go on and know more. It's good to find a game that intrigues you and pulls you right in.

Besides, it was easy to identify myself with Zoe. She has everything, an understanding father, a great house with all the comodities in a beautiful and exotic city, yet her life seems to have no meaning. She feels lost, can't seem to find a job, she?s trying to figure out what to do with her life. I'm sure we've all been there at some point or another. Although you also get to play with other characters later on, and they aren't any less interesting.

Dreamfall is a third-person action/adventure game, with emphasis on the adventure. You spend most of the game running from one setting to another, finding clues, using objects and little by little, unveiling small pieces of that conspiracy smell that lingers in the air.

The action part is done through combat, with a few key fights here and there, and I must say, it's something that needed some improvement. The controls are nothing but button mashing, and it all feels pretty sluggish. I know, this isn't a fighting game, but it's quite difficult to time an attack or block properly because the movements feel so awkward.

The game also offers sneaking and hacking (you'll be amazed at what you can do with Zoe's cell phone) components to the gameplay, which help offer different ways of solving certain puzzles.

The best thing is probably the conversation that happens between characters. Some of them are mandatory, they just happen when you approach, and serve to advance the story. In these cases, you basically sit back and watch the scene roll, as if you were watching a movie. In some cases, you get multiple choice options to ask a character something or other. It reveals little things about their relationships that you wouldn't know otherwise. I found it most interesting to talk to Zoe's mechanical "pet" gorilla, Wonkers. The voice acting is excellent, making the dialogs in the cut-scenes very pleasing. Granted, sometimes these conversations drag on for quite a while, and that is something that usually bores some more impatient players.

The environments in the game offer a balanced mix of fantasy and sci-fi, none makes the other shade in comparison. You know that Zoe is currently living in Casablanca, India, and you see traces of the culture in the furniture, architecture and little decorative accents such as rugs, curtains and beautiful beaded pillows. On the other hand, there are all sorts of technological advancements all around you. It may sound strange, but it works, and you can marvel at both tradition and technology simultaneously.

I am glad it was the graphics that got me to play Dreamfall. Aside from the fighting, the rest didn't disappoint. The journey has been a very pleasant one.

Special thanks to Lori Mezoff and Aspyr Media for providing a copy of this title.