After five minutes with Dreamwalker: Never Fall Asleep, I wasn’t quite sure what I was letting myself in for: I had invaded a poor young woman’s dreams and could hear her screaming whilst locked away somewhere. The scream was piercing and unnerving, and I had a feeling that the ‘Family & kids’ label on the Xbox Store was badly misplaced.
Things did calm down thankfully – at least until the climax – and Dreamwalker: Never Fall Asleep is another decent example of the storytelling prowess at Artifex Mundi. If at times one that is a little far-fetched.
The lady in question is Sandra Perkins, who is currently stuck in a coma. Her mother – the Mayor of the sleepy town of Drowsy Valley – calls upon the help of a psychiatrist with the unique ability to manipulate people’s dreams and investigate the more paranormal side. You play as this psychiatrist and must visit Sandra’s dreams to uncover the mystery held over the entire town. Sandra isn’t the only resident of Drowsy Valley with trouble sleeping as you will quickly realise: there is a Dreamwalker prowling through people’s dreams, quickly turning them into nightmares. The plot is best described as a paranormal version of Inception, and early on it can be just as confusing to figure out what is going on. When it calms down though, there is more to discover in this so-called ‘sleepy’ town than initial reports would suggest.
Bizarrely, your character also dabbles in more than just paranormal psychiatry. During the story you also partake in doctoring, policing and a lot of sleuthing. This is perhaps sometimes a bit too invasive; at times I question how involved she gets in the proceedings. The final straw comes when you are locked away in a prison cell for the night, break out, and then invade the arresting police officer’s dream while no one bats an eyelid.
Being an Artifex Mundi title, you will likely know what you are getting yourself in for beforehand, and Dreamwalker is no exception. This is yet another point and click title from the modern masters of the genre.
Gameplay is very traditional as you piece together the mystery and explore the environments. You must find objects in the pictures to either use in that area or combine with others in the inventory, that in turn will help you unlock the next area. Sometimes there are hidden object puzzles where you are given a picture and a list of items to find; these are the point and click adventures at their purest and it is a shame that there aren’t more of them.
Both these hidden object settings and the environments themselves continue with the hand-drawn feel to them and look very pretty. Some characters and objects you interact with will also have a bit of movement to them. However, it isn’t much, and even when it is present isn’t always the most natural-looking thing.
On occasion, the game does offer some absurd solutions to puzzles that no rational thinking mind would ever come across. For example, one puzzle had me use a tree-shaped car freshener to prize open a drawer. Again, these out-of-the-box solutions are point and click staples since the genre first came about. but it still does mean that when you are short of ideas you simply find the area you need to be at and then use every item in your inventory until you discover the correct one.
For those who are a little more patient, there is a hint system in place that will highlight where you need to be looking without making it immediately obvious.
In total, there are 26 achievements to unlock in Dreamwalker. Whilst this is my no means a difficult completion, some planning may be required. There are plenty of collectibles to find in the game – this time it is postcards, stamps and sheep that must be found – and an area should be fully sieved through before moving on as you are unable to return to many of the locations once complete. There are also specific achievements related to the hidden object sections, based on time to complete and not using any hints, that you should take note of before starting the game so you can plan accordingly.
Dreamwalker: Never Fall Asleep on the Xbox One is the latest in a long line of Artifex Mundi titles that have attracted a cult following in recent years due to their revitalisation of point and click and generally easy achievements. Dreamwalker is no exception but feels a more run-of-the-mill offering this time around, rather than being a standout title. The story is fair but a little too outlandish in places – not necessarily the paranormal side of things but more the actions of the psychiatrist left me questioning her motives. But, as a way to pass a few hours on a weekend with a story-driven game, you could do a lot worse.