Review: Dream Chronicles for XBLA

A few months ago I reviewed Dream Chronicles: The Book of Air for PC. When I found out last week that the original Dream Chronicles was coming to XBLA, I was all over it. After spending many hours going through single player and local co-op with Chris, I can honestly say that the game had some high points, and some equally frustrating moments.

In Dream Chronicles, you play as Faye, the mother to Lyra, and wife of Fidget. Lilith, the Fairy Queen of Dreams, has cast a spell over the entire town of Wish. The motive behind this is that Lilith wants Fidget, who is also a fairy, for herself. Using what little magic he can to wake Faye from her slumber so she can save the day, Fidget places all of his trust and hope in his wife. Now, Faye has no idea that Fidget and her in-laws are fairies, but she does figure it out, and no… I didn’t just spoil anything for you. Even though there is a story behind it all, and an objective with a main goal, the game doesn’t bog you down with a complicated, drawn out story. Every once in awhile there are short mentions of Fidget or Lyra, but it’s nothing that makes you want to start smashing the A button just to quickly skip past them.

With a healthy balance of puzzles and hidden-object gameplay, Dream Chronicles is a lot of fun. Since no mouse is involved, all of the controls have been remapped to fit the Xbox 360 controller. I found it to be a smooth transition, but there were times where the cursor didn’t move as fast as it would’ve had I been using a mouse. I did like how I was able to zoom, and then use the right thumbstick to look around, and it is the kind of thing a younger individual could easily pick up. I will say that, since many of the puzzles are logic based, it might come in handy to aid them by either being in the same room to verbally assist, or by jumping in the game with them using the local co-op feature.

Graphically, it’s stunning for a game of that genre. Everything is smooth, vibrant, and fitting for that world. I did appreciate how objects were easily distinguished from other objects. Often I find it frustrating when games do cheap things like when one has to look for an object like a teddy bear but it’s nowhere to be found. Only by going crazy and clicking on the mouse, or A button in this case, would one find the object and the only trace of it was in a faintly drawn outline on a castle wall or whatever. I should also point out that I never ran into a situation where I had to blindly click around in a dark room, which was incredibly refreshing.

Some of the frustrating moments were things that could’ve been avoided, both on my part and the game itself. There were also things in the game that I felt to be a little unnecessary. At one point you have to get into Lyra’s treehouse, but the a part of the bridge is missing. In front of you are large planks of wood but they are too long, so you need to find a saw to cut them. In order to use the saw on the pieces of wood, you have to look at each small pile of wood and read what it says before you can trim them down. Should you try to use the saw before doing that, it won’t let you. I figure that if you look at one pile of wood, you will automatically know what to do from there. Once you assemble the bridge, you click on the door to the treehouse to enter it, but then something magically happens and you have to find three pieces of colored chalk to fill back in the drawings on the treehouse. Then, when you think you’ve done it all and can finally enter, the stones that make up Lyra’s name on the door get scattered about and you have to find them. Sure there are only 6 of them to find, but it’s similar to dangling a carrot in front of a horse, and I’m not a horse.

The frustration didn’t end when I got inside the treehouse either. With an open trap door on the floor, it’s clear that is the only way out of the treehouse. When you click on that, the red wagon in the treehouse is then positioned over the now closed trap door and is missing wheels. It just makes no sense that, with the door already open and available for you to exit, you have to go through all of these meaningless tasks when you had a clear way out in the first place. I could understand if the tasks you performed gave you objects that were necessary in order to finish the very end of the game, but that wasn’t the case. Oh, and just a tip: when you are in the treehouse, make sure to move the camera as far down as you can and look around both of the bottom left and right corners.

Those were the main grievances that I had with Dream Chronicles, and compared to everything else, it’s relatively minor. With the achievements, many are given to you for just progressing throughout the game, but there are two that I feel are impossible to obtain. One is beating the entire game within 30 minutes, and the other is beating it within 25 minutes. I went through it on my own, and when Chris joined in I was sure that it would cut the time down considerably. It took the both of us about 2 hours to get through it all, and I thought we were making excellent time. If one is able to blast through the piano puzzle and the more logical puzzles towards the end, one might have a shot at those two achievements. You’d also have to completely ignore any dream jewels along the way as well because they are too large of a distraction and can be very time consuming.

Even though the entire time I spent with Dream Chronicles was short, I did enjoy myself and I think that is one of the main goals when making a game. If that was one of Hudson Entertainments goals, then I can honestly say that it was achieved.

Dream Chronicles is available right now through the Xbox Live Marketplace for 800 Microsoft Points. Would you rather try to win a free copy? Enter our Dream-y Giveaway and hopefully you’ll win!

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