Baudville, best known for its excellent graphics programs (Blazing Paddles and 816/Paint) has released its first entertainment package, which, if nothing else, is sure to be controversial. The game, a beautifully rendered graphics adventure, is entitled Dream Zone and it is bizarre ... but that's meant in the nicest way.
The premise is simple: Troubled by recurring nightmares, none of which you can remember the next morning, you seek help from Dr. Sigmund Fraud. His method of treatment places you inside your dreams so that you can seek out and destroy the monster haunting your nights. Your dream world becomes reality: If you fail to complete your quest and escape from the land of the subconscious, you'll perish.
Simple, you say. But you'll never use that word again in connection with Dream Zone. From the minute the game leaves reality (which is depicted in stunning black-and-white digitized pictures) and enters the world of dreams, play becomes as confusing, illogically logical, and frustrating as ... well, as a foggy nightmare.
The game truly conveys a dreamlike feeling. Perhaps it's the Orwellian overtones which derive from the many animal characters who people the Zone and with whom you must converse and interact. Or maybe it's the frustrations of being placed in somewhat familiar situations that should be easily solvable, only to find that typical solutions aren't the answer in a dream. You must literally learn to think differently and be willing to try bizarre things to solve the maddening puzzles of the Dream Zone.
While Dream Zone's puzzles are convoluted and complex, the mechanics of the game are straightforward and sim ple. Thanks to the use of the mouse and a segment of the display titled the Icon Bar, 80-90 percent of Dream Zone can be played without touching the keyboard, a real boon to hunt-and-peck typists.
The Icon Bar contains the inventory icon and a list of the most frequently used action words. Clicking on the word DROP, then on one of the icons in your inventory drops that item, for example. Likewise, clicking on the action word TALK inserts Talk to ... in the Command Line; clicking on a character displayed in the Picture Area inserts the name of the character after the words. A final click in the Command Line area activates the instructions. This technique can be used in almost every situation during game play. The Icon Bar is further enhanced by the ability to double-click on a word and thereby change its meaning: A double-click on the word HIT, for instance, changes it to KILL.
Movement about the strange world of Dream Zone is just as easily accomplished. To the right of the large graphic Picture Area is the Control Pad. The Pad is made up of directional arrows surrounding a center button. Clicking on an arrow moves you in the corresponding direction; clicking on the center button results in an ENTER command, while double-clicking on the center button results in an EXIT command. Finally, up and down bars are located above and below the Pad itself.
Touch typists can take heart, however, because all commands can be entered into the Command line via the keyboard. Likewise, all commands that can be accessed via the top of the screen pull-down menus (Save, Load, Edit, and so on) have keyboard equivalents for those players who don't care for mice.
Dream Zone is a difficult game. While this isn't necessarily bad, it should be considered a fair warning to those easily frustrated by seemingly unsolvable puzzles. There are clues within the game itself to the majority of the stumpers found in Dream Zone, but the clues are subtle at best. Many of them are discernible only after having found the solution from a hint book (which can be purchased separately) or a telephone call to Baudville.
Also, and not to be moralistic, it should be noted that you will, at times, be forced to steal and kill to accomplish your task. The problem here is that, unlike killing a monster who is intent upon dismembering you, in Dream Zone you kill just to get something that won't be given to you freely or for money. Of course, it is just in a "dream," your gun is a water pistol, and the victim is (literally) a Bureaucratic Pig.
Dream Zone is a unique product filled with biting satire, outstanding graphics, a streamlined playing system, and challenging situations. It's hard to believe that the program was written by two high school juniors. The game comes on two copy-protected 3½-inch disks. Up to ten games can be saved on the game disk, an option which should be used.
Dream Zone will be either praised or damned, depending upon an individual's taste. Aesthetically, no one will deny the delight provided by Dream Zone's music or pictures, both of which push the IIGS to its limits.
-James V. Trunzo
Apple IIGS with at least 512K-$49.95
5380 52nd Street SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49508
Hint guide and map-$6.00