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Dream Quest Reviews
Author: Jeb
Date: 2006

Reviewed by David Whyld

Jeb's only ADRIFT game, Dream Quest is a fairly sizeable download, comprising some 3.5 MB. On the downside, most of this is the graphics and sound (about 3.4 MB) and only 82 KB the actual game itself. That's not to say that effort hasn't been expended on Dream Quest - it has - but it's a depressing thought that although this is heralded as a "text" adventure, some 95% of the download is the sound and graphics.

There is a small amount of background at the start of Dream Quest to give you a vague idea of what is going on, but very little is actually told about your character in the game. You have escaped from a prison galleon bound for a penal colony (what you were imprisoned for in the first place you don't know) and have now found yourself washed up on the shore of a fishing village. What you do next, how you go about discovering the secrets of your past, are the main thrust of the game.

Dream Quest, in my humble opinion anyway, plays far better as a straight text adventure than one overburdened with graphics and sound. In all honesty, the graphics aren't much to write home about and while the sound effects are a nice touch, they quickly outstay their welcome. For someone who prefers playing text adventures without sound altogether, the sound effects were distracting and soon had me reaching for the volume control.

Ignore the graphics and sound and Dream Quest isn't a bad game at all. The style of writing is reasonably atmospheric and there are nice touches with different coloured text to emphasise events - perhaps a minor thing but a nice one all the same. Static item descriptions are pretty much a hit-and-miss affair: some locations contain examinable items, others don't (although the items are listed in the description so being faced with the "you see no such thing" when trying to examine them is annoying).

Conversation with the various characters you meet is awkward in that it uses the standard ADRIFT conversation technique of "ask [character] about [subject]" without providing any kind of hint as to what you're supposed to ask them. Quite a few times I met a character and was unable to elicit a single response from them. Another time I came across someone called Mrs. So and was unable to reference her at all! As to whether this makes the game unfinishable I really couldn't say but it's one of the signs Dream Quest shows of a definite lack of playtesting.

Though it comes with a hints option, Dream Quest is a difficult game to make much progress with. In part this is due to some quite awful guess the verb problems. When trying to distract a guard so I could sneak past him, I found a pebble but was unable to figure out how to solve the puzzle without resorting to the hints. "Throw pebble into bush" might have seemed perfectly logical and straightforward to the writer but it doesn't to the poor player. "Throw pebble" would have worked just as well and would have prevented much frustration.For a first effort, Dream Quest isn't a terrible game by any means. As said above, the writing is quite atmospheric; the story, while hardly enthralling, held my attention for long enough; the layout of the locations was reasonably interesting. But its bad points - guess the verb, difficulty and lack of communication with characters - turned what could have been a fairly decent game into a decidedly average one. A major rewrite to rid the game of its bad points would be a very good idea.

Logic: 8 out of 10
Hard to fault the game here as the few tasks I completed were nicely logical although how it fairs later on I couldn't say.

Problems: 5 out of 10 (10 = no problems)
Guess the verb struck quite often and there were some occasions when the game seemed overly difficult. And, of course, being unable to reference one of the characters was a major problem.

Story: 5 out of 10
Fleshed out a little more, the background story could have been interesting. Left as it is, there's too little to go on to give it any real depth.

Characters: 3 out of 10
Pretty one-dimensional with the exception of Bert. Conversation with them was awkward and hints as to what to ask them would have been a big bonus.

Writing: 6 out of 10
Generally pretty good.

Game: 5 out of 10
Not a good game, not a bad game, but somewhere in between. Dream Quest at least shows promise that the writer has the potential to produce far better games.

Overall: 32 out of 60

Reviewed by MileStyle

Grave digging, dog-orc hybrids, and, er, nothing special! 

Probably weighing in as the largest download regarding ADRIFT this game's size actually owes more to the sheer quantity of sound and graphic files that accompany it rather than the makings of a huge, simulated world. It is however, set apart, from many other ADRIFT games, as Dream Quest serves to illustrate the author's ambition, and definitely shows certain signs of promise; but promise, unfortunately, is not what makes a game. 

Rooms are numerous and varied within the game, offering the player the ability to roam freely amongst the staple diet of most fantasy games: the small village with its square, inn, and shop, in addition to other locations such as a pier, underground caverns, and a castle. The description of the rooms, to the detriment of the game, are very patchy and are more expositional than demonstrable. To the credit of the author, they have picked out objects and details that, with further skill in scene composition, could be manipulated to add an emotional slant to each. 

Objects lie littered throughout the game and are the most infuriating component of Dream Quest. As an example there is, within a room description, mention of a 'cupboard' but on trying to examine this cupboard the game responds with 'Nothing special.' However, on examining the wardrobe - which is never mentioned - I get a brief description. Although this was only one occasion such a situation was found, it was nevertheless unfair on the player. Another instance that lets down the gamer is the lack of objects to back up references made within room descriptions. 'Dynamic' objects, on the other hand, are used logically within the game. 

The game contains a small gang of characters that populate the main village and these are handled rather badly within the game. One such instance is a character named 'Mrs. So' whom the game can't reference due to the punctuation within the woman's name. The innkeeper says he's 'very busy tonight' but the player can ask him if they need drinks, but when asked about 'drinks' he continues to insist that he's busy. 

Guess the verb, through referencing objects and asking characters about certain things, is rife within the game due to a lack of synonyms, and this negligence makes the game harder to complete, especially if you are trying to conclude the game without using its hints. 

With respect to the sound and graphics that accompany Dream Quest, they are used to illustrate the scene at certain locations, to soundtrack the outcome of a task, and to parallel the occurrence of an event. This is done to good effect and demonstrates that the author has a certain degree of production values: when a rat scurries past you can hear it doing so; when the waves wash against the pier you are reminded of the sea. Trying to examine the rat, or the sea, still replies that there is 'Nothing special.' The sounds are okay within the game although people chatting would have served better to illustrate the inn rather than the sound of someone burping. The graphics, nicely presented in grayscale, are a tad excessive to the game where the rooms would be done more justice with better descriptions than a few disjointed lines and a picture. 

For all its faults, Dream Quest does have a number of qualities which with a lot of work on error trapping, and making a more immersive world, could result in a better game. When invited by the monk to 'meditate' the player should expect a response allowing them to meditate, more syntactical work on allowing the player to complete tasks is most definitely a must, as is the way objects are described. Should this game be worked on further, to the point where interaction is extremely improved, then it could become a respected game within the ADRIFT community. Until then, however, Dream Quest can only be used to serve as an example of what not to do in game construction. 

Reviews should be considered copyrighted by their respective authors.


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