Art’s Dream is a Weird, Wonderful Delight.

Media Molecule’s in-house example of what Dreams is capable of takes centre stage.

A promotional image from Dreams showing the two main characters from the platforming section of the game riding cute looking dragon.

Release: February 2020
Developer: Media Molecule
Platform: PlayStation 4
Buy from Amazon: Dreams

After seven years of waiting, Dreams is finally out in the wild; out of beta, and available to everybody. Media Molecule’s opus for PlayStation 4 takes the idea they started with LittleBigPlanet – that you can create your own game within their main game – and takes it to stratospheric new heights.

Rather than remixing levels using assets available in the main game, Dreams is a fully-fledged game-engine in its own right. Allowing objects to be created on a granular level, it is designed to give players the freedom to create anything their imagination can muster. These creations are then presented in the form of ‘dreams’ which can be saved, shared and played by others. These dreams can take the form of games from any genre, or even used to create art pieces, short-stories, visual novels, sculptures and all manner of things in between.

Media Molecule have of course created a dream of their own in order to showcase the kind of things that are possible with the game. Which brings us to Art’s Dream, as it is called, which was created entirely using Dreams’ own tool-set and is a stylised and highly polished example of what can be achieved within it.

An in-game screenshot from Dreams showing the two main characters of the platforming sections in a painterly, fairy-tale environment.

The game has many lovely touches throughout, like the fired musical notes in this section creating their own beats and guitar strums.

Assuming the role of Art, you navigate his dreams (and nightmares) as he battles to conquer his own fears and anxieties. Art is a bass player in a band, a band which he has recently deserted due to his fear of performing at their biggest gig to date. In order to conquer these fears you must travel through memories and scenarios from Art’s childhood and adulthood which play out across a variety of game-types. These game-types not only push the story forward but also conveniently demonstrate how versatile Dreams is as a creation tool.

The majority of the sequences are split across two very different 3D platformer sections. One with a stunning fantasy setting and the other in a beautifully clean sci-fi environment. Each has you constantly switching between characters with different abilities to leap through the levels and make it to the finish line. Both are standard 3D platformer fare, but the polish and craft on show – not to mention the gorgeous CGI-like visuals – is consistently impressive.

Mixed in amongst these sequences are some slower point-and-click-adventure style sections which contain most of the dramatic story (and some quite amusing musical) beats. These sections combine highly stylised visuals, selectable dialogue lines and some light puzzle and comedy elements to pull off a rather enjoyable LucasArts impression.

An in-game screenshot from Art's Dream showing Art himself driving along a highway towards Thornbeak, the game's large, crow-like antagonist.

The game’s antagonist Thornbeak is a brilliant, genuinely dark and unsettling creation.

Later come some arcade-style shooter sections (both into-the-screen and side-scroller varieties) and then finally a thrilling late-game stretch which combines pretty much everything that has come before for an excellent and breathless finale.

The examples of different genres on offer and the level of polish present in each provide a fantastic example of what lies ahead when more people get their hands on the game and start creating dreams for themselves. The thought that Art’s Dream (impressive as it is) is only scratching the surface of what is theoretically possible in Dreams is a very exciting prospect.

The 3D platformer sections have none of the loose, floaty jump physics of Media Molecule’s own LittleBigPlanet series, the shooter sections are fast and frantic and the point-and-click sections are beautifully scripted and cinematic. All three are gorgeous to look at.

Media Molecule have created one hell of a game engine here, with visuals in a lot of the sequences displaying a decidedly pre-rendered solidity to them that stand up to the best of what the current-gen is capable of.

At around two and a half hours, some may bemoan the short length of what they will assume to be Dreams’ “story mode”, but that’s not what Art’s Dream is – that’s not what Dreams is. Dreams was designed as a tool for people to create their own personal stories and to share them with the world, and Art’s Dream is exactly that.

As a narrative work, it is honest, heartfelt and captivating, and as a game it is varied, enjoyable and wholly compelling. As an example of what is possible using the game’s creation tools however, it is a roaring success.

Art’s Dream is obviously a deeply personal tale for its creators; something that’s rare in the AAA gaming space and which Dreams not only caters for, but actively encourages. It’s bold, it’s weird, and the fact that it’s merely an example designed to empower others to do the same is something that should be widely celebrated.

Buy from Amazon: Dreams

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