Dream:scape [$1.99] is a story of death and redemption, a haunting narrative brought to life with Unreal-powered graphics and pitch-perfect sound design. In it, you play Wilson, a coma patient on the verge of death who is given the chance to explore his own memories and discover the truth of a secret that's haunted him throughout his life.

To help you find your way through Wilson's memories, you're given a diary that notes the memories and images you discover on your journey. It will guide you through his dreamscape, a place of deep foreboding. You'll come across meaningful places where voices from the past will give you pieces of the secret, and you'll feel the world close in around you as you approach the final revelation. For an hour or more, you'll be immersed in Wilson's world.

I wanted so much to love Dream:scape. It has all the makings of a classic, with a thoughtful story and fantastic atmosphere. The sound and music are amazing—you're cheating yourself if you play without headphones—and even the voice acting is strong. If you can go into the game wanting only these things, you'll be impressed.

But if you're looking for a game that's enjoyable to play, you should look elsewhere. Judged only on its technical merits, Dream:scape is a mess. I played it first on an iPad 2. The device can play the game with a high and steady framerate, but the textures look strangely low resolution and the control is abysmal. The on-screen controls are slightly too large and awkard to use comfortably. The camera control can't be inverted, and while you can drag to pan the camera, you'll bump into the on-screen camera control regularly.

The controls feel much better on smaller devices, but you'll probably run into crashes on anything but the newest generation of hardware. If this happens to you, try resetting your phone before playing - this game needs a lot of available memory. Given the option, I'd recommend only playing on an iPhone 4 - they've got the power to run Dream:scape well, and the textures look much better on a Retina display. I suspect I would have enjoyed this game much more if I'd only played it on an iPhone 4.

No matter what you're playing on, though, the gameplay just isn't very inspiring. It can be hard to find your way around, and the in-game map isn't very helpful. Also, a good chunk of Dream:scape's short experience is spent backtracking. For example, I noticed a hammer sitting on a box early in the game. It was obviously important, but I couldn't pick it up. A few minutes later, I found a spot where I needed a hammer, so I had to find my way back, grab it, and return. This sort of thing continues throughout the game, so there's really no point exploring anything other than the area you're meant to go. You'll get through every area by the end, and there are no secrets to find or achievements to unlock.

Worse are the game's few moments of action. They require swipes across the screen that only register if you do them in the exact short, sharp manner the game expects. If you fail, you're sent back to the last checkpoint with no indication of how to do better. This may be more of an interactive narrative than a game, but all these frustrations get in the way.

Dream:scape is so close to being amazing that it's hard for me to say this, but the problems just killed what enjoyment I would have otherwise had. If it receives an update to address the control issues, the crashes and the texture problems, then yes, absolutely buy it and experience it. Otherwise, you'll need to judge whether you'd find interesting story worth muddling through the often frustrating gameplay. It's not perfect, but I'm glad I got to enjoy the audio-visual experience and haunting story.

It's exciting that the tiny team at Speedbump Studios was able to put this game together in just a few months. We're obviously seeing the tip of the iceberg of the sorts of interactive 3D experiences we'll be seeing on our iOS devices in the months and years to come. I'm just not sure this one was quite ready for its debut.

TouchArcade Rating

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Rabattino/1129592217 Michael Rabattino

    Couldn't agree more.  It was a great experience at times, but was marred by less than stellar storytelling and gameplay mechanics.  Just kind of left me a little underwhelmed at the end.  But I don't think it's a failure.  This is definitely the future of the iPad/iPhone as far as games go.  I have confidence in the developer to create a more complete experience.

    • Anonymous

      I wouldn't exactly call this the future of iOS games... just because the tech is available doesn't mean the casual market is going to start embracing it. Simple, innovative games are always going to be the huge sellers on the App Store.

  • Adams Immersive

    Sounds like it could use a round of important fixes (controls, better map?) but assuming that happens, I really want this one! Maybe it was released to soon, but I love atmospheric surreal games (and even game-like art experiences a la Tale of Tales).

  • Fleshman

    "Given the option, I'd recommend only playing on a Retina device – they've got the power to run Dream:scape well" this is incorrect at few point:First, iPodTouch is retina, but this crashes all the time in it, because it only have 256 MB RAM!! (thanks to Apple's rip off)
    Second, iPad2 isnt retina, but it will run easily on it...

    anyway, this game is sux, i hate that developers cant make games that can run at about 80-100 megabyte of ram....thats the amount of free ram that iPT 3-4, iP3Gs and iPad have...

    • Anonymous

      Ah sorry, I didn't realize the current gen Touch was so low on RAM. And yeah, although the iPad 2 runs Dream:scape well, I still wouldn't recommend playing on it for the reasons I mentioned in the review - the iPad controls are especially bad. I couldn't even fix them by using my Fling sticks.

  • Yitzchak Schaffer

    Ouch. I guess I have to agree about the gameplay; a lot of potential, but I had the same hammer reaction. I'm using a 3GS, and after initially struggling with starting the game, I didn't have more problems. Having to review the cinematic intro every time bites, though.

  • PinkPanties

    Unreal fails again

    • LeeDot

       How is this a failure on the part of Unreal? You can take any engine in the world (Unreal, Unity, iD's Rage engine, even Coco's 2d) and make a buggy game with crappy controls.

       For that matter you could give someone all the code for Infinity Blade intact and they could still make it run and look terrible and crash all the time if the levels and art weren't built with the memory / gpu constraints of the device in mind. 

    • Psnell

      Um, they're actually doing quite well financially...inside of the top 200 overall apps/games.  I wouldn't call that a fail.

    • Taz

       Epic Citadel, March of Heroes to name just 2. The UE is not the failure, the failure is in the developer not producing a game suitable or as polished as it should have been.

  • http://twitter.com/jonathanM21 Jonathan

    Textures look bad on iPhone 4 as well, just not as bad since the screen is smaller. Look down at the floor; texture is abysmal.

    My review in the thread was similar to this one. You want to love it but it's an empty, poorly structured mess.

  • Wildmatt

    Why is the garage from Rocketeer in this? http://goldenageofaviation.org/gz.jpg http://i.ytimg.com/vi/TLWpblRlLNc/0.jpg 😛 Can someone tell me?

    • ClassicUser

      Um, how is that "the garage from Rocketeer"?  It's a generic hangar, which also appears to hold a similar Gee Bee Model R plane (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gee_Bee_R-1).

  • XahXhaX

    Why is this reviewer practically apologizing for reviewing the game?

    You're right on a few accounts--it's a mess, and poorly coded.  Many of us suspected as much when the developer posted the help wanted sign, and apparently little changed between then and release.  I'm sure their intentions were sincere, but the fact remains they're leaving the game on the app store and accepting purchases for something known to be severely bugged.

    Considering Toucharcade is one of the most popular iOS sites around, and the countless games we buy based on simple recommendations here (I can't tell you how many I've personally bought just after the first few sentences to the effect of 'you guys gotta check this out') then it's all the more important you don't beat around the bush.  Tell people not to waste their money on this game, unless it's to reserve the app for future updates when and if they happen.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2TCN4ALC3T7HA3BA24232WOV6I Matthew Keith

    Hey the game looks and runs better than 99.9% of iOS game on my third gen ipod touch. And the complaiants about the ground are unfounded they had a limted budget to work with it seems to me that they used them wisely. I was not diappionted by this game. It is better than angry birds and all of it's casual ilk. It's better than whatever poor port EA is pumping out. I love this game and when I reviewed it I gave it a ten out of ten. Yes a perfect score for a perfect game. I experianced no problems with the game and thought the graphics looked good. About as good as PSP or even PS2 graphics. It is a quality game and deserves more credit than it is given. All in all it's up to the player but I like the game and I guarentee it's a fun play through becuase every game has it's glitches even big budget titles.

    • Adminus

      How much they paying you??

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2TCN4ALC3T7HA3BA24232WOV6I Matthew Keith

        No I wish I was, but I bought this game for the review at full price. I think I put my point in and really appreciated the game and thought man that was the best $1.99 I ever spent. Think about this you get a five hour experiance for $1.99 so if you compared it to going to the movies to see X-men the Last stand which is way shorter than the playtime of this game you get a way better deal if you buy this game. I guess you could say that I can live with it's graphics which I think are great way better than say what an orginal DS can put out. So yes I was impressed by this game and think that it is a great graphical showing on the device.  Better than most PS1 and PSP games graphics so what more can you expect from an indie game.

    • Taz

      Are you the developer?

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2TCN4ALC3T7HA3BA24232WOV6I Matthew Keith

        No read my reply to adimus

    • Ghost in the web

      I wonder how do you make it run under an ipod touch 3rd generation considering it only had 256 mb of ram. I am a video game colector, and I wouldn't even dare to compare this game to any console, not because it doesn't deserve it, it's because it it completely diferent. You cant compare a home console game with a iOS device (not yet, not without physical buttons and since this game had a very particular mechanich of gaming).
      I dont want to be desrespectfull, but i have several doubts about the thruth of your review starting with the device you use to play it (I own a ipod touch 4th gen, and an Ipad 1, both crashed while starting)

  • Jimmö

    So far I've spent about 30 min with this game and I would recommend this game, no doubt! Im playing on my ipod touch 4 and no problem with the game so far. Have not tried it on my iphone 4 but I cant imagine it works worse on the iphone...Interresting story and nice graphics is a lot of fun in my oppinion 🙂

  • brian

    It is a beautiful story trapped in a bad game.

    Even then, I enjoyed the experience - but more attention to detail and a better game engine could have lifted this from Interesting to Sublime.

  • Paul

    I have to agree with this review.  I ultimately enjoyed the game/interactive experience but on more than one occassion I nearly deleted the game out of sheer frustration.  The mood of the game is relaxing and sombre but the controls almost ruin what should be an immersive experience.  I also didn't like the fact that I ran into 'invisible walls' more than once.  And the combat, particularly towards the end of the game, is awful.  A very nice idea that needs a lot more work.  I would note that the developer has been very noticably absent from any discussions on the game.

  • Anonymous

    I just picked up the game, played it through (on ipad 2) and I think the review was actually a bit too accommodating. 

    The concept is interesting and the sound design is good, but that's pretty much all that's going for it.

    The swiping mechanic is broken, the game is made artificially long by forcing the player to back-track, the environment is nice, but the graphics are low res and the puzzles (if you can call them that) are pretty uninspired.

    It's pretty clear that this team has a talented level designer and a great sound engineer on board, but they need a producer.

  • bennehftw

    Finally, you guys reviewed it. Always prefered this site over any other. But from reading other review sites as excited as i was for this game to come out I didn't buy it because of all the negatives I've been reading. I love the whole interactive story telling aspect of it. But, eh, seems like there's too many negatives that outweigh the positives.

  • Taz

    This is one app/game i'd been waiting for since TA had announced it, I even bookmarked the forum posts to see the latest developments on this. Initially it was said that the game would be at an introductory price of 59p which I felt was a no-brainer just buy it for the sake of it - looks great & uses the UE so must be good?
    Thank god I held off and didn't buy it! The app seems too short, if you remove the back-tracking you're looking at an even shorter experience. Graphics look poor and reviews not so good. Its just a shame the developer thought about greed before quality & a finished product. This could have been the next big thing on the iPhone in the end it turns out to be just another buggy app. For 3 months worth of work surely the developer could've spent a bit longer to iron out the kinks first before releasing it on iTunes?
    For the guy who thought its the UE at fault check out Epic Citadel - that's what I'd expected this game to be as good as. Shame it falls far short of that!

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2TCN4ALC3T7HA3BA24232WOV6I Matthew Keith

      Real shame when gameloft doesn't get picked apart for some of their "games" but they take it out on this game which is far superior to most if not all game loft games. So compare  $1.99 to the $4.99 you would spend on gamelofts latest trainwreck.

    • LuckyTouchArcarde

      Yes, thank GOD you held out! You saved that whole $1.99!!! Whew...

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2TCN4ALC3T7HA3BA24232WOV6I Matthew Keith

    Okay there's already an update that was released last night to fix xrashing

dream:scape Reviewed by Nissa Campbell on . Rating: 3