[Continuing to publish our articles that were planned for Retroaction issue 5, we move onto the Weird and Wonderful piece…]
When it comes to weird games you can’t get any weirder than the appropriately titled Weird Dreams. Developed by Herman Serrano, James Hutchby and Tony King of Rainbird Sofware for the PC in 1988, the game was ported to other formats including the Amiga, Atari ST and Commodore 64, with varying success.
Weird Dreams features some of the most bizarre, outlandish scenarios and character enemies that a player could witness. The game’s plot follows on from a short novella, which was written by Rupert Goodwins for inclusion with the game, and details Steve’s back story. For unknown reasons, Steve’s health has declined to the point that he ends up on an operating table to undergo brain surgery and this is where the game begins.
While Steve is unconscious, it’s the player’s task to control the inner embodiment of Steve as he explores these dreams, overcoming any obstacles, enemies and solving the mystery within to make a full recovery. Obstacles and puzzles must be overcome by using certain items that can be picked up and used in the dream worlds. Some of the surreal scenarios include a fairground with a giant wasp, a lush green garden with man eating rosebushes, a bright sandy desert with flying fish and green two legged desert creatures and much more.
Living up to its weirdness, the game’s progress is tracked by percentage rather than levels or scoring and Steve’s health is displayed by a heart rate monitor. One touch from an enemy and Steve goes into cardiac arrest, requiring the surgeons to resuscitate him, which they can do so for five times before it’s game over. The design and presentation is also suitably weird with various ways in which Steve can perish. These take shape in comical dreamlike fashion with animated sequences that include Steve’s head swelling up and exploding… The Hall of Mirrors is where the player will end up after the first level. This is a central point that connects all the other dreams, meaning that the game can be played in any order, giving a non linear feel. The game may actually be quite short, but with the difficulty of the puzzles, you will be at it for a long time.
The game’s aesthetics, which are adequately produced, add to the bizarre atmosphere. One minor niggle in the game is the flick screen method of getting from one area to the next, which can be problematic at times, especially if an enemy is on the verge of the next screen.
The dream like atmosphere that the game creates can be frustrating, confusing and littered with unknown dangers – all the emotions that real dreams evoke. Wacky, difficult, provoking and, of course, weird, Weird Dreams is a game in a dream world of its own.