Dreamweb's got one of those very rare things in computer games, a believable plot. I say that, not because it could really happen, but because the idea of a dreamweb can happily sit up there in your imagination alongside extra-terrestrials, shamans, vampires and poltergeists. A long and cinematic opening sequence plays doom-laden music, like Ennio Morricone's score for The Thing, while a simply-animated, er, animation tells you the plot.
There's this dreamweb, see, which exists somewhere in everybody's imagination. We all travel there, in our dreams, which are controlled by the 'keepers of the dreamweb', seven ordinary people who have each been assigned a single node of the web. Their own strengths and weaknesses affect the web, which ensures its equilibrium, or something. Well, most of it's believable, anyway.
Right, so these seven people are systematically bumped off by an evil force, which replaces them with their own, ungodly sort. And you, as an ordinary Joe (called Ryan, though) are summoned by the monks who live amongst the, ah, filaments of the web, to assassinate the seven new node-keepers who live on earth. They have prominent positions in society, of course - no self-respecting devil or similar anti-Christ is going to assign important tasks like keeping nodes to any bum they find on the street. No, there's a military General, the head of a corporation and a rock star, to name but three. So getting near them is difficult, never mind shooting them too.
We don't normally mention game manuals in reviews, but one of Dreamweb's pair of pamphlets is somewhat... special. It's a natty little number called 'Diary of a (Mad?) Man', the rogue question mark for added 'effect' immediately putting me on my guard. It's meant to account for Ryan's actions up to and including the game itself; but where there's the possibility of a subtle and involving insight into the mind of a serial killer, there's actually pages of self-indulgent twaddle reading more like the angst of an adolescent American. In amongst such bizarre entries as 'The clock keeps going round. It won't tell me the time. Santa Claus gave a gun to me. Let loose the puppies of war, died last night.' There are actually some clues about how to play the game; so sadly reading the damn thing is something of a necessity. Thankfully, the game is somewhat better.
First, a bombshell. The structure of Dreamweb is similar to Gremlin's Plan 9 From Outer Space. The comparison is a little unfair, because Empire's game is much, much better - however, the idea that finding clues and solving puzzles not only opens up more of the adventure, but also adds to your list of 'visitable' locations is a strong part of the theme. Unlike Plan 9's mysterious taxi driver, though, there's no travelling as such, simply a range of icons which you can scroll across, clicking on the place which takes your fancy. This is meant to take away any possible tedium of walking to-and-from, but personally I'd quite like a bit of exploring - especially the first time around. There are really very few bad points for us to chat about, though; the small playing area, and the fluctuation between blindingly obvious and almost invisible clues pale into near-insignificance when the whole game is strung together. The film soundtrack-style music is mainly responsible for this. Sampled sound effects accompany doors opening and guns firing, and despite the limited interaction between Ryan and the other characters the atmosphere is extraordinarily cinematic. In all honesty, though, I experimented by turning the sound off for half-an-hour or so, and my interest level in playing the game waned. Without the atmospherics there's not enough depth of either game-play or characters in Dreamweb to hold your attention for long periods of time. So make sure you have the volume pumped up when you play. The red herring element is off-putting at first; the impulse to pick up items soon fills your meagre inventory with unnecessary tat - so it's important to discard what you don't need. Empire deserves to be given credit for moving away from the usual point and click adventures, because it has created a game which will not only appeal to adventure gamers, but also to film buffs, longing for a real piece of 'interactive fiction'.
This game was widely advertised as the first adult orientated adventrure game. It's full of violance, nudity and sex. The gameplay is not very hard, most problems can be solved by shooting them. By the way the game is interesting with it's top viewed camera. The AGA version also features 256 colour screens.
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