I'm sorry, I really am. I wanted my debut review here on Crash Landed to be a
positive one, one full of joy and merry japes, I didn't want to be outed as someone so cynical, so soon, but alas here we are as I review
Daydreamer: Awakened Edition (henceforth referred to as Daydreamer) for the PlayStation 4.
Daydreamer - which is developed by one-man talent Roland Womack, who began his career in the visual effects industry and is now
going under the umbrella of Roland Studios - is an action platformer, with gameplay clearly emulating titles such as Megaman and Castlevania.
The structure of the game itself is fairly simple; run through the unique-looking levels, avoid the enemies and obstacles, defeat the boss, rinse repeat.
With each of those aforementioned bosses styled to somewhat reflect the aesthetic of their levels they are situated within, which can vary wildly from serene,
suburban areas to cyberpunk-styled, post-apocalyptic wastelands.
The main premise of Daydreamer is that the human race has been defeated by alien invaders and you, the main protagonist, have become
enslaved within this world - Matrix style - as some kind of trophy.
At the beginning of the game you are awoken by ‘The Gatekeeper’, who is part of a faction of friendly aliens that have also been captured and
imprisoned below ground, instructing you to go off and free them and ultimately save the world. From here the game is fairly straightforward, giving you a
small selection of levels to trudge through, with each boss defeated unlocking the next.
To help complete each level within Daydreamer, you have multiple abilities at your disposal. From your basic attacks such as a melee, in
addition to your gun - which can be upgraded with different fire modes such as rapid fire and spread shot - along with a quick evasion or dash (left or right)
to quickly escape any hairy situations you come up against.
In addition to this you can summon a familiar, pet type character that will provide certain buffs to your character depending on who you call upon.
These numerous abilities are briefly explained to you within the first 10 minutes of gameplay and then seemingly forgotten, never to be mentioned again
throughout Daydreamer. What this meant - aside from being a lazy way of introducing new game mechanics - was that it was difficult to
remember everything just a few levels in, wherein I would completely forget that I could dash for example, which quickly resulted in my death.
Normally I would take this as part of the learning curve, but when the screen quickly fills up with enemies that look like walking potatoes, it can become
very frustrating very fast. Easing you into the various mechanics - allowing you to get used to each of them and the enemies they are effective against -
would have created a much smoother experience.
But while I’m on the subject of looks, I need to make special mention of the graphics employed within Daydreamer. Whilst they’re very
clear, the use of pre-rendered 3D characters and animations is incredibly dated, reminiscent of early PlayStation titles. I certainly understand the developer
was aiming to replicate that same feel, and emulating a style similar to the platformers of the 90’s, but it just doesn’t look all that great.
Modern gaming has seen a renaissance of indie pixel art games, due in large part not only because it’s easier to accomplish, but still look beautiful today
- in essence they have aged well. Unfortunately there was a reason the art style employed by early PlayStation titles quickly died out as the industry moved
onto the PlayStation 2, and I feel Daydreamer reminds us why, with animations looking sped-up and janky - almost like bad claymation - which
gives the look of the entire game a very cheap feel.
The story likewise seems like an afterthought within Daydreamer, with the main bulk of the plot exposition dumped on you at the intro screens
onset, and not much else given in terms of world building from then on. The only interaction with the story after those first two aforementioned minutes, is
gained from a brief dialogue session before tackling the game's bosses.
Which unfortunately like the rest of the story, is badly written and at times can be very random in nature (case in point: a rabbit boss, creatively named
‘Rabies Rabbit’, has only one line of dialogue, “I’m a rabbit, deal with it”).
All in all, with a badly written story, awkward graphics and an overall cheap feeling, Daydreamer just doesn’t feel like a very well thought out game.
Whilst most indie games play upon the strong pixel nostalgia, Daydreamer sucks its ideas from one gaming generation ahead - the early 3D era -
but fully reminding us why those games haven’t aged well and should be left in the rear-view mirror.
Review copy provided by the publisher for the PlayStation 4.