It seems like every day there's a new puzzle platformer. However, it's rare to come across something as unique as Dreamals. Having limited mobility while planning every step carefully is an intriguing concept indeed, but is it any good?
As you may already know, mountain goats, parrots, and raccoons are always bickering and this delightful game stars one of each. One fateful night, they fall asleep after the usual quarrel and end up in a strange dream dimension. The only way they can escape is if they find an odd entity's Dream Keys. In this dimension, the goat can only move right, the raccoon can only move left, and the parrot can only jump straight up in the air. Every animal moves simultaneously when you push left, right, or the jump button so keeping an eye on all of them becomes rather tricky. Once two touch each other, they combine forces to form a new animal that has the two inherited movement abilities. For example, when the goat and parrot combine, it can move to the right and jump. Thankfully, after all three combine then you can move freely around the current stage. This formula creates a canvas that many satisfying puzzles emerge from over the course of the campaign. You can probably already imagine the possibilities, especially when you factor in all of the complexities that slowly get introduced.
Dreamals' pixel-perfect presentation is oozing with charm. Each animal and their corresponding combinations are adorable while the detailed and diverse environments provide additional eye candy. There are four themed areas which consist of a forest, jungle, desert, and a chaos realm. It's impressive that each of these areas offers a distinct feel yet stages within each area appear varied with some being during the night or inside structures. The audio is composed of appropriate sound effects and upbeat music which adds even more charm to the equation. Overall, this is one cute package complete with an equally adorable story.
While you progress through Dreamals' 80 stage campaign, many complexities slowly unfold that force you to come up with new strategies to overcome them. These include features such as panels that warp you to a different part of the stage, jump pads, exploding blocks, moving platforms, and spots that reverse gravity when you stand on them. On top of all that, many hazards such as fireballs, spikes, enemies that move whenever you do, and bottomless pits are strategically placed to catch you off guard. The learning curve is implemented fantastically as it allows you to get used to every added component before introducing you to the next one. This definitely helps when trying to beat every stage and find the game's 16 hidden stars. Speaking of which, there isn't anything to do once you accomplish all of that but you'll have such a good time on the road to perfection that in the end it doesn't really matter.
A few frustrating downsides hold Dreamals back from being a great game. The most notable issue is that there is way too much trial and error involved. This comes naturally to a game with this many restrictions but it also means that you'll play a stage for fifteen minutes or so only to mess something up right at the end and therefore have to start the whole thing all over again. When this happens, you'll feel like shutting it off in frustration. That brings me to my next point; there should be buttons that allow you to rewind or retry the entire stage by the tap of a button. Going through the menu to retry every single time you make a mistake gets tiresome quickly. Finally, one of the most annoying parts is when gravity reverses. Although there's nothing inherently problematic about this feature, why the heck did they reverse the controls when it happens? It'll screw with your head and many accidental animal slaughters will occur because of it.
Dreamals is a game that came out of nowhere but I'm glad I downloaded it and gave it a try. It just goes to show that even if animals are constantly bickering, they can still come together and achieve greatness.
- + Unique concept makes for satisfying puzzles
- + Cute visuals, audio, and story
- + Slowly introduced complexities keep the gameplay fresh throughout
- - Too much trial and error is involved
- - There should be retry and rewind buttons
- - Controls reversing whenever gravity flips is extremely disorienting