Unreal Engine games are popping up all over the place these days, and they live up to the expectations of giving iOS games better graphics. dream:scape is one of the first actual games using the game engine, and there’s been a lot of buzz about the game over the last couple of months.
The best way to describe the game is as a point-and-click game without the pointing and clicking. You’re playing as a coma patient who’s reliving memories and moving around a dream environment, which is essentially a giant Unreal Engine tech demo that has a lot in common with the actual tech demo they released a while ago.
The game is story based and has voice over to tell the story, and to progress in the story you basically just run around until you trigger some sort of event. Instead of picking up a hammer that you need, you run near it to trigger a “I found a hammer” clip. This can get quite tedious as you have to trigger the events in the right order, e.g. first you have to discover you need the hammer and then you can pick it up, which means you’ll have to backtrack all over the place rather than pick up stuff you think you might need.
TouchArcade reviewed the game fully and progressed further in the story than what I did. Their thoughts seem to be the same as mine with regards to backtracking and lack of any actual gameplay aside from a few action sequences. I also found the controls to be quite horrible, with the two virtual analog sticks (one for movement, one for camera) being very sluggish to use and resulting in it seeming like you’re controlling a drunk person.
Graphics-wise, the game is great as far as iOS games go. The iPad 2 is allegedly less suited for the game than the iPhone 4, as the larger screen makes it easier to see that true detail is lacking. While TouchArcade gave credit to the voice acting in the game though, I have to disagree to some extent. The voices have a certain “I got a friend to do it”-feel to them, meaning they don’t always sound like they belong to that character. Having full voice acting in an iOS game is still awesome though, so I can’t fault it too much.
The background music, while both suiting and soothing, is partially ruined by a poorly hidden transition when the soundtrack loops around to the beginning.You might be walking down the road while admiring the excellent lighting effects that Unreal Engine produces, and suddenly the music tracks hiccups while starting over. Again this is a minor annoyance, and only noticeable because the atmosphere is otherwise very good.
All in all the graphics, music and voice effects are great for a $1.99 iOS game, and definitely a preview of things to come, graphics-wise. dream:scape is more of an interactive novel than a game, and that requires a specific audience in order to be well received. I will freely admit to not being in that audience, but I can still appreciate the quality of the environment in the game. The game has gotten excellent reviews by people who are into such games, so I can only advise you to consider what games you like and make a decision to get it based on that. At $1.99 in the App Store it’s worth the (199MB) download if you think it might be for you, but unfortunately the free roam mode is locked until you complete the game which means that it’s rather useless for those who just want to walk around and look at the environment.