You know, normally I don’t review games that I haven’t finished, but, with this one, I don’t think I need to. It’s that weird that I don’t think I need to finish it to get a good idea of what the game is like.
That and I’m pretty sure I’ve played to near the end of the game anyway!
Anyway, Take the Dream IX is a game by Yai Gameworks, a games developer who are previously known for their game Close Your Eyes (not to be mistaken for ‘Close My Eyes Forever’, a song by Lita Ford), a game which I avoided because, well, it looked far too out there for my liking and I’m not a big horror fan, if I’m honest, so it was pretty much a game that I knew I wasn’t going to be won over with. I did appreciate the RPG influenced style of the game from what I saw of it, but I wasn’t sure that it was going to be my sort of thing, so I skipped it.
So, why did I pick this game, in light of their previous game not being my cup of tea? Well, the trailers for it did not show any real horror influence or weirdness, so I figured it would be worth giving it a shot. I DID notice the horror tag applied to the game, but I figured that it wouldn’t be a major focus of the game.
…As you might have guessed from the first paragraph, I was wrong there. I wouldn’t say that this is a bad game, though. Sure, it’s weird, the horror elements aren’t my kind of thing and some controls related to the game need refinement…but it’s not a bad game at the end of the day.
Let’s start with the negatives: for such a bizarre game, the core plot is more than a bit cliche. The protagonist is a lesbian who has her partner kidnapped by a demon and is trying to rescue her. Along the way, she has to complete various puzzles to advance through locations and works with a party of fellow adventurers. While there’s a lot on top of this, that’s the core of the game, which isn’t really all that interesting. Admittedly, a lot of surreal horror starts out mundane before diving into crazy town, but I feel that a more interesting core story could have helped the game, as it is a bit boring to have the damsel in distress story as the protagonist’s sole reason for going through what they do in this day and age.
I also feel that the game suffers a bit from the amount of locations in it. The game has you go through a lot of environments, but they don’t really feel like they all fit together due to the nature of the story (I won’t spoil any of it) and leave the feeling to me that the environments were created first and the story was made around them rather than coming up with the story first and having the environments be picked as appropriate for the story (or, if necessary, modifying the story a bit to account for the environments available to work with). Now, to be fair, one could argue that this is a deliberate choice, as the aim is to leave you disoriented and wondering what is going on, but they go by so quickly that it stops feeling strange after a while and starts feeling like nobody could agree to stick to a location. It actually makes me think of The Evil Within: great set pieces for a great game, but not enough connecting logic to make the set pieces actually make sense as set pieces in THIS game.
I also don’t like the instant death puzzles in the game. For some reason, the game likes giving you timed puzzles which kill you if you fail them (some of which, by the way, also require you to find your way around something which you’ve never seen before and avoid stepping too much on stuff which, if you do it too much, kills you) and some non-timed puzzles which can kill you instantly if you don’t do them right. The game doesn’t have combat, so I get why having ways to die in this game is valid, but instant death puzzles aren’t fun for most people because it means you have to replay the whole way back to the puzzle, which can be more than a bit frustrating if you died literally a second away from safety or because you legitimately had no idea how to survive it.
Lastly, I think the game needs refinement in the controls and in the optimisation. The controls have this grid movement style of walking that’s akin to Pokemon, which might be fine on a small screen, but, on a large screen, it feels really awkward. To be fair, the game is aiming for an old school RPG style, but it’s a style that simply feels weird for a PC game. Also, for some reason, the game slows down quite a lot at points in the game, which is very weird for a game reminiscent of old school RPGs. This one might be my laptop, I’ll admit, but, let’s be honest, a game built to look and feel like an old school RPG should not be difficult to run on a laptop which can run the Dawn of War franchise!
Still, it’s not all bad. The sound design is honestly incredibly good, with the music enhancing the atmosphere when it needs to and the sounds fitting in well with the game. I have to respect the game for offering a good experience overall, despite my personal opinion on the whole thing being that it’s weird more than it’s actually scary. The characters are fairly well written, feeling like actual people rather than stereotypes of people. Heck, I’ll admit, as much as I’ve ragged upon the game for the last four paragraphs, I didn’t want to stop playing it and I did enjoy playing it. Nothing really struck me as bad so much as merely in need of improvement or a bit predictable, which is a lot more than I can say for some games which try to be unique and fail to be entertaining at all.
So yeah, if you don’t mind a bit of weirdness and horror, then Take the Dream IX is actually not that bad. It’s not a hidden gem, by any measure, but it’s certainly worth a playthrough if you’re into this kind of thing.