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|1 star:||(2)||Average Rating: |
Number of Ratings: 166
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- peachesncream, August 16, 2020
- Arrowhead12 (Edmonton, Alberta), June 11, 2020
- quackoquack, June 10, 2020
- kierlani, May 20, 2020
- Zoe Victoria (Under your bed), April 24, 2020
- Sitri Salmacis (Atlanta), April 9, 2020
- Sayeth (Lexington, KY), April 2, 2020
- Sammel, March 20, 2020
- Vicusol, February 16, 2020
- Phlegethon, January 27, 2020
- Sono, December 10, 2019
2 people found the following review helpful:
You do not find yourself afraid. A review is more than merely interesting., June 24, 2019
With no memory of who you are or what you are doing there, you have found yourself in a bleak stone chamber with only one exit. Clambering out and up a staircase, the breath catches in your throat as you realize where you are - a dreamhold, the private home and study of an immortal wizard. Your only goal would appear to be escape - but why are you drawn to collecting strange masks? Either way, you must explore this place, and all of the magical mystery within.
The Dreamhold was designed as an introductory story to parser IF, and as a result you are guided by the Voice, who uses italicized brackets to give advice, hints, and occasionally self-deprecating commentary:
[Amnesia. Yes, it's a cliché, but it'll do for a tutorial.]
There is an expert mode for those readers that enjoy fiendish puzzles (I'm not quite prepared for that yet!), and I like the idea that once-IF newbies, after playing through it the first time and then many other IF games, tackling that challenge as a final exam of sorts. I did enjoy solving the mystery on normal, and the dreamhold was brilliantly designed and well-crafted.
However, the reason why I've not given it a full score is that I did not quite understand the story or the couple of endings that I managed to find, and perhaps there could have been a clearer backstory or some sort of helpful coda or explainer at the end. Perhaps I was just being particularly obtuse, and perhaps one day I'll amend it if I do complete expert mode and that illuminates things.
Nonetheless this game does exactly what it sets out to do, which is provide a great introduction to parsers. Four multicoloured masks - in any order, I'm not picky (unlike some!).
- elias67, March 15, 2019
- Stian, January 22, 2019
- mils32k, January 7, 2019
- Superfreq (Southern Gulf Islands, British Columbia, Canada), December 20, 2018
- davidar, November 10, 2018
8 people found the following review helpful:
Teaching the spirit of experimentation, July 11, 2018
The Dreamhold is presented as a game suitable for beginners, complete with a tutorial voice and the choice between a normal mode and an expert mode. And yet Plotkin's aim is not maximal accessibility or minimal resistance on the way to a winning ending. He is not here to hold your hand. If you expect him to, you will be disappointed; as some of the reviewers have been, who complain about the openness of the world and the complexity of some of the machinery one meets.
But Plotkin signals his intentions early on, when the player is brought into a room stuffed with useless objects that one is nevertheless encouraged to examine one by one. This, surely, can be intimidating to the new player. Yes. But it is also something one must absolutely learn to cope with if one is to navigate any of the classic parser games. The same is true about learning to explore large worlds, about making leaps of dreamlike logic, and about thinking through possible interactions with complex machinery. Rather than hold your hand, Plotkin drops you in the thick of things, with one message: trust me. And you can trust him. Everything will make sense; you won't get the game into an unwinnable state; and with some determination, you will probably be able to win.
But Plotkin takes things a step further. He is not only introducing the player to the skills and techniques need to play old-school parser IF, he is also introducing them to a particularly fine example of the aesthetic of those games. The mysterious, abandoned world; the slow accumulation of hints that build up a narrative framework; the spirit of experimentation; and especially the being rewarded for your hard work with strange and unexpected experiences -- it is all there. Introductory games tend to be limited and boring; and in a sense that means that they do not teach the player the right mindset. They teach her to think in limited and boring ways. The Dreamhold teaches players to persevere, to try strange things, to try and step off the seemingly beaten path.
Whether it actually succeeds is less sure. The existence of a simple solution, bypassing large parts of the game, might fool people into thinking the game has less to offer than it has. (It fooled me, but luckily I replayed it using David Welbourn's walkthrough.) Approached with the right mindset, however, it does a great job preparing player for the world of old-school parser IF. Although it might spoil the player in the meantime -- it's kind of hard to go back to Adventure after playing a game as polished as this!
4 people found the following review helpful:
Good, but maybe too much for new players?, July 1, 2018
I think The Dreamhold was my first IF, maybe three or four years ago. I've dabbled in IF on and off since then, but I've been making a serious attempt recently to get into it, and I thought I'd play this again to see if it still holds up.
The Dreamhold holds up, but it's... weird. It's an introductory game for players completely new to IF, but it's also a sprawling and intimidating puzzler, but it's also a beautiful empty space to explore, but it's also a patchwork biography of the space's owner. The more I think about it, the less I'm sure it all actually works together.
The big problem with the Dreamhold is that the puzzles in some places are, I would argue, far too complex for a first IF. Most of these complex puzzles are optional so that the new player can pick and choose what they do, and that's fair enough, but visualising them (and handling them, if you're not mindful of what actions you can type in a text parser) is pretty challenging. The machine in the Orrery, in particular, is a fine argument for having graphics in your games. There's also a few big red herrings, really interesting objects you can't actually do anything with, which is maybe a mean trick to play on new players.
Most of the puzzles are perfectly fine, though. Many of them are written to encourage experimenting with items and the parser, and I think they do a good job of this. The berries are a fun item to use in particular, flicking them at everything just to see if the game reacts.
I think the real strength of this game is the writing. Andrew Plotkin knows how to write a room description, so that much of the game is beautiful even in text. The story is told in non-chronological scraps and odd objects to find which hint at events far greater than the scope of the game. I enjoyed piecing this backstory together and theorising more than many of the puzzles.
The Dreamhold is still a good game, and a good choice for a first game. Just don't be ashamed to use a walkthrough if you want to poke around the game's backstory and some of its more interesting rooms!
2 people found the following review helpful:
May not suit all types of players, June 30, 2018
If you're a fan of puzzle IF, then the other reviews pretty much cover it - you'll probably enjoy this, and don't let anyone (least of all me) tell you otherwise!
But I found I didn't - I'm not a beginner exactly, but I mostly skew towards Story IF. Plotkin's writing is crisp, and some of the scenery is certainly compelling. But I found myself getting bogged down in mapping (all the non-cardinal directions like NW) and the puzzles. There's a hint system, but it rather primly stops before giving an unblocking suggestion too often.
After resorting to a walkthrough about (Spoiler - click to show)the order of masks at the mirror, my reaction was a slightly irritable "Huh? How was I supposed to figure that out?" But that's ok, this just isn't for me.
Clearly lots of people love these puzzles, but if you're not one of them, please don't despair: there are other styles of story to explore.
- Stas, April 14, 2018
- FORN (Dublin, Ireland ), April 2, 2018
- e.peach, December 28, 2017
- Spike, December 25, 2017
- Prosilire (New York City), December 3, 2017
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