Console, Gaming, PlayStation, Review

Dreams Universe Quick Review: So Much Potential (Waiting to Be Realised)

There is probably no game that is quite as unique as Dreams Universe, a PlayStation 4 exclusive title. In fact, it is both a video game and a platform for creators to envision their idea of a game, animation, or even music, and…well, realise it. Dreams give players the tools they need to produce almost anything they want, and for this reason alone, it’s a very interesting title.

However, this game also relies quite a bit on user-generated content, which comes with its own set of shortcomings. But given some time, along with the right creators, Dreams Universe could really transform itself and reach its full potential.

What It Is

Developed by Media Molecule – the same studio behind the LittleBigPlanet franchise – Dreams Universe offers two main components: Dream Surfing and Dream Shaping. The former allows you to explore the creations of other “dreamers” (that’s what creators are called in the game), while Dream Shaping allows you to make your own creation.

Chances are, most users will be spending the bulk of their time Dream Surfing; that’s certainly the mode I find myself playing the most. I tried my hand at Dream Shaping, and while the tutorials are well-crafted, they are very elaborate and can get quite overwhelming.

Under Dream Surfing, there’s also a story mode of sorts in the form of a creation by Media Molecule itself: Art’s Dream. It’s meant to be a showcase of what can be accomplished in Dreams, and it’s really quite an interesting game.

The Good Stuff

Let’s start with the aforementioned Art’s Dream. Media Molecule has a number of creations in Dreams Universe, but this is by far the most elaborate one. It follows the story of Art, who is struggling with fear and doubt. In order to help him, players would have to delve into his dreams (obviously).

The whole of Art’s Dream consists of several different types of game genres. At one point, I’m playing through a point and click sequence, and in the next section, it shifts to a rather cute platform game. It reminds me quite a bit of LittleBigPlanet, in fact.

Art’s Dream is not a particularly long game – lasting only about two to three hours – but it’s certainly a fun experience that highlights Dreams’ potential. There are even a number of musical sequences in the game, and they are quite enjoyable, if not a little quirky.

That really is the biggest pull of Dreams Universe: the possibilities are practically endless, provided there are enough creators on board. I’ve looked through a number of other creations while Dream Surfing, and I was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled upon a recreation of Avatar by Elca Gaming. No, not James Cameron’s movie, but the animated series.

However, the Avatar fan game is far from finished, but it does show what can be done within Dreams Universe. There are also a number of other surprisingly polished creations, including a kaiju simulator titled Ruckus – Just Another Natural Disaster. It’s a short, simple game, but it’s absolutely satisfying to knock down buildings and shoot laser beams as a cute little large kaiju.

Graphically, some creations on Dreams can look really, really good. Naturally, Art’s Dream looks fantastic with gorgeously rendered models and environments. Frame rate is also consistent, with no noticeable dip. But do note that I played through this game on the more powerful PlayStation 4 Pro system instead of the base model.

Though this depends on individual creations made in Dreams, most games have good, tight controls. Thanks to this, platforming sequences are a breeze to solve, and it never feels frustrating even when I fail to complete a complicated part.

The Bad Stuff

Unfortunately, Dreams Universe does have a number of shortcomings that can be a dealbreaker to some. As I’ve mentioned early on, this game is very reliant on user-generated content. While there are quite a number of creations available right now, most of them feel…unpolished. It’s understandable, of course, given that these are not made by a team of professional developers.

Granted, there are a handful of creations by Media Molecule in Dreams, which are a lot more refined. But most of them can be completed in a short period of time, so you’ll run out of content from the studio very quickly. At the end of the day, the creations of other dreamers are the ones that will pull in players to Dreams.

What about Dream Shaping? Well, if you’re thinking of making your own game in Dreams, prepare to put in a lot of work. Yes, very powerful tools are at your disposal, but you’ll need a lot of time and effort to really take advantage of them.

Is It Worth It?

It depends on your expectations. Dreams Universe, on paper, offers so much potential. But that potential can only be realised in the form of user-generated content, which is a tall task that will take quite some time to materialise, if at all.

Games that rely on user-generated content can succeed, but it requires a large number of users with the right level of expertise. Take Super Mario Maker: before it was even an official game, there’s a whole community that’s been building Mario levels for many years. This is one of the biggest reasons behind the game’s success.

So the question is: can Dreams Universe achieve the same dream? It’s a possibility, but the quality and quantity of its creations – and creators – will need to grow, which will take time. Until then, Dreams will not reach its full potential.

At least, not yet. It’s still much too early to tell, given that Dreams has only been released for a couple of months. If you’re keen to get this game, it’s now available on the Malaysian PlayStation Store for RM169.