Developed by Aist Published by Beatshapers, Digerati Distribution Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (also available on PC and Xbox One)
With the advent of indie games, a return to a pixel art style has become significantly more popular once again. The advancement of technology in gaming allows use of the art style that has more detail than as ever possible in previous generations. Dreambreak is a game originally released on Steam but is now on consoles. The idea of a futuristic Russia where the main character, Eugene, is suddenly thrown into a revolution had me pretty intrigued. It’s too bad it doesn’t pan out over 2 hours.
There were several aspects of Dreambreak that really disappointed me and we’ll start with the story. The story begins with Eugene cursing his life of being a janitor in a dive bar. Given the setting, it is curious to see what could possibly set him off on an adventure through the dystopian world. Well, after a CIA agent is found dead outside the bar, Eugene decides to investigate. Apparently our protagonist is a spy like…all of a sudden. So he decides to investigate this murder further because he can. I don’t want to go over the rest because it doesn’t make sense and on top of that it all take place in less than an hour in real time. The game comes up with a conspiracy revolution and frankly it’s a large, indiscernible mess.
Even for such a short experience, I was hoping Dreambreak‘s game play would compensate for the banal story. Another avenue of disappointment. When trying to move Eugene, he often does this weird “I must look over my shoulder first” animation and then is able to perform any actions. This includes basic movement, interacting with environments, and climbing. I am not a angry person, but there were times I almost felt like throwing my controller. There’s a sequence about halfway through where I thought I was supposed to climb over a ledge and then climb down the other side to avoid a death trap. Then I had to make Eugene look over his shoulder to climb up, then again to climb down, but then he wouldn’t even drop down…by then I had enough. I found another way to get past the section but I feel like it was pigeonholed in. Then I realized the whole experience would be like this even if a wide variety of other play styles were crammed in for the sake of action. I have no problem with a developer trying to spice things up, but if you’re are going to do so much you need to properly explain things at a basic level beforehand. There is a hacking mini-game that with a targeting reticle, but how to perform hacking on a controller is barely explained and required excessive experimentation. I was so frustrated that I almost stopped playing all together.
There have been a lot of negatives but there are two positives in which I feel developer Aist could really build a platform on. Firstly, Dreambreak’s pixel art style looks exceptional. The details crammed into both the character sprites and the backgrounds (with the exception of a few mundane alleyways) all feel very alive. Another positive aspect is its sound production’ the game sounds great musically and with excellent sound effects. The soundtrack has a cool synthesized tone that fits the setting superbly. If Aist can write a decent, longer story, and add more game play without making the character a total chore to control, they could have a very bright future.