Back in the '90s, there were a ton of games set within sinister worlds inhabited by ugly creatures. Daydreamer brings back that style as if it never went away but is it a genre worth revisiting?
It goes without saying that Daydreamer is a weird game. I don't fully understand its story but it basically involves a girl who's the last surviving human on Earth. After awaking from a deep sleep, she goes on a journey to the centre of the planet to confront an alien entity. However, her journey won't be easy with hundreds of aliens out to taste her flesh. The visual style is what sets Daydreamer apart from other modern 2D platformers. Whereas most aim to be super-retro or offer a stylish contemporary look, Daydreamer opts for the detailed CG sprite approach that was characteristic of the mid to late '90s. It's very reminiscent of games such as Skullmonkeys and Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee. The environments are mostly brown and full of decrepit backgrounds while enemies are downright ugly and unsettlingly creepy. The amount of detail is fantastic and it does such a great job of presenting a disturbing world that I wonder why more developers don't try to recreate this style.
Daydreamer is played by controlling the girl as you would in almost any 2D action game. You generally run around, double-jump, shoot, and use melee attacks. Where Daydreamer excels is in its fast-paced action that's an absolute riot once you get into the swing of things. Playing it reminded me of a Mega Man X game where you can dash out of harm's way, leap off walls, and use a wide array of weaponry to your advantage. Stages are filled with tricky platforming segments, tough enemies, and plenty of items to add to your arsenal. Each stage ends in a boss fight that you can expect to be hideous yet extremely satisfying to defeat. Overall, this is 2D action in its purest form.
As I've already mentioned, you acquire plenty of items as you progress. These range anywhere from weapons to stat boosts yet some are truly unique. Unleashing a pet has the potential to give you the upper-hand in a tough situation. For example, a fuzzy turtle can slowly charge your weapon energy and health over time although it gradually drains your money, too. You'll come across a handful of shops from time to time that sell you goodies or provide free bonuses such as a dolphin that replenishes your health. Anyway, you can equip four weapons simultaneously that you can switch between on the fly. Learning when to deploy each one to get the most out of every situation is an enjoyable task. If you want to stick to your melee skills, you can perform various moves such as slide attacks, jump kicks, and a Crash Bandicoot-style spin. For defensive moves, you have the ability to deploy a shield and dash through enemies. If that's not enough, you can even slow down time when things get too hectic. All of these moves are great fun to play around with.
Daydreamer's biggest downside is the fact that you'll encounter far too many frustrations that'll make you want to shut it off. Some stages include tons of bottomless pits and very tricky platforming which is not an easy combination. One boss chases you and kills you instantly when you touch it. This is fine on paper, but I found myself getting stuck on collapsing platforms and unable to jump free so I died way too many times without it being my fault. Occasionally, you'll defeat enemies in spots that you can't reach so you have to look at the items they left behind and just wish that you can have them. Finally, certain stage features are difficult to distinguish. Sometimes, what seems like a wall is a hallway while some pits you actually have to fall down in order to progress. Talk about irritating.
The entire campaign can easily be completed in under a couple of hours. To prove this, I beat the whole thing on normal difficulty and got a trophy for doing so in less than two hours without even aiming for it. There are 14 stages that provide a decent amount of variety but once you're done then there really isn't any reason to play through again except for getting better grades on the boss fights.
Daydreamer is a solid action game set in a memorable yet disturbing world. If you can forgive its more irritating aspects then it's a nightmare worth having for any 2D gaming enthusiast.
- + Retro creepy '90s visual style is spot-on with ugly enemies and detailed stages
- + Relentless 2D action is a blast
- + Loads of moves to experiment with
- - Many annoying events frequently occur that take away from the overall experience
- - Plenty of stage features are ambiguous
- - Campaign can be beat in one sitting