Weird Dreams. (computer game) (evaluation)
by Steve Anzovin
Watch the roses-they bite. Careful of the little girl-she's lethal. Flying fish are key to your survival. Is this a nightmare or another David Lynch movie? Weird Dreams is a little of both, a game that traps in a surreal environment from which you must escape, checkered pajamas and all. The only way out is to wake yourself up, but you won't be able to do that until you experience some of the strangest adventures ever seen on a computer screen.
Like most action games of this kind, Weird Dreams deposits you in a series of potentially deadly situations that you must survive by using your wits and joystick skill. Make your way through all the screens, and you achieve the ultimate goal of the game (in this case, to reassemble your badly addled brain and make it through the surgery you seem to be undergoing). What's refreshing and different in this adventure is the game's unpredictable sense of humor and use of graphics that would give Salvador Dali pause.
The gameplay will be very familiar to sword-and-sorcery gamesters, even if it does require a fish or soccer ball instead of a sword. Instead of dragons and trolls, there are more unusual adversaries. Watch out for seemingly innocent objects; unwary encounters with these are likely to result in sudden, gruesome (sometimes gruesomely funny) death. To survive, you've got to kill just about everything you meet and grab anything that you can pick up.
The package includes a useful hint book and a long-winded novella that sets the scene for the game itself but which won't help you much in playing it. (You'll need the novella to pass the game's copy protection.) A joystick is also highly recommended, although you can play from the keyboard. One irritating flaw is the lack of a save-game feature; after five deaths, you're back at the beginning.
While Weird Dreams is certainly something different in the all too predictable world of computer gaming, I found myself wishing it were even more different. A lot of the game depends on joystick reflexes. The game would've broken new ground if it had required players to figure out the kind of intensely personal symbolisms and puzzles that dreams really present. You get some of the flavor of a generic dream, without the emotional urgency that all real dreams have. Sometimes I wanted to talk with some of the characters I met, but to progress required more violence than voice. The nastier opponents tend to be female (the little girl, the ballerina, the queen bee); game programmers ought to be more sensitive to these issues.
Perhaps my wish is really a call for a radically different kind of computer game, one that Weird Dreams only hints at. All in all, the game was fun, an odd diversion from the usual without being a complete reverse of the familiar. All that's required to have a good time with Weird Dreams is a quirky sense of humor-and it helps if you aren't too squeamish.