Cold Dreams is an action/puzzle platformer made by Immortality Production in 1995. With a fusion between middle age and futuristic setting, it feels a lot like He-man. Actually, that's a fair comparison because you play a muscular warrior on a different planet then earth that has a combination of old culture/weapons and sci-fi technology, and of course there are dinosaurs living there too. With some hacking and graphic changes one could have re-titled it "He-man in the Mazes of Eternia" and made Skeletor, Hordak and King Hiss the end bosses! Wouldn't that have been something?! But enough dreaming, let's get on with the review of a game that sounds like it has a lot to do with just that.
The plot is that somewhere in the depth of the universe a sun without name shines onto the red planet Swandah. "The collapsed caves of the red planet are shrouded into legends. Inside, ancient monsters and dragons guard the chambers and refuse the passage of the mortals. The last trial of courage will be to cross the dark maze and battle against the heroes of the underworld. Many knights of the universe have already tried to overcome the temptation of this quest. But no one has returned from Swandah until now... Maybe you will be the one..."
Now, one might start wondering how any of this has anything to do with dreams and how the plot ties in with the title. First of, the main character himself is not dreaming, he's physically on the planet. Secondly, if the title referes to dreams he has of becoming the first warrior to beat the mazes, then that's reasonable I guess - but it doesn't explain what the word "cold" is doing there. So just why the developer chose to go with this is beyond me, but it's a good example of someone combining random words hoping for a cool title, but instaid ends up with something that is such a mismatch to the plot that it fails miserably. And the plot itself is weak as hell. If no-one has ever returned from planet Swandah then where do the stories come from? I know that the unknown spawns legends but come on, if your uncle went to a far-off planet and then disappeared would you automatically assume he was taken out by aliens? Yes, why not - let's ignore all possible real ways to die in an unknown environment and make up something extraordinary... Damn those aliens!
Idiotic title and crap-plot aside, the game itself is not bad. It consists of three worlds, The Cave Beneath The Great Desert, The Green Caverns and The Red Maze, and these are graphically separated mostly by different color-schemes. It should be mentioned that Cold Dreams uses a unique element I have rarely seen before, and that is real pictures to accommodate the drawn graphics. A small example is the texture on blocks that have a stony surface. Other, more impressive features are Egyptian statues and wall-art, pillars, deserts, woods and even huge lizards! It's pretty original and works better then one would think in creating a fitting atmosphere for the three worlds. When starting a new game you can choose which of the worlds you want to play (so much for what little plot the game had left). Each world is divided into 4 levels, and these are mazes where the player must gather weapons and items, kill monsters and solve puzzles using what he has in order to proceed to the next maze. As mentioned you control a muscular warrior, dressed in armor and brown "He-man shorts". In addition to walking and jumping he can climb, pick up and use objects and throw weapons. There are 5 different weapons: Magic, Golden Flash, Knife, Axe and Flying Bomb. There's a fixed amount of these on each level, so be careful as to which weapon you use on different enemies. Also, Flying Bombs must (mostly) be spared to blow up certain walls, so if you use them at the wrong place or to neutralize an enemy and then get to a blocked path, then tough luck - you're stuck. And wherever you go in the game you might take a bad step and find yourself in a place with no way out. This is why you have to save often, but luckly the game lets you do that at any given time. If you do get stuck or fed up you can commit suicide by pressing G. There are also ordinary doors in the game, and two types of keys that unlock them. Silver keys open chamber doors, and gold keys open exit doors.
In addition to your weapons and keys you have 5 special items: Shield, Bomb, Anti-lightning, Robot-ammo and a robot (which I'll get back to later). Of these the Anti-lightning is used to cut the power in lightning-generators found on the levels, which enables you to pass them without any risk of being zapped. The Bomb kills every enemy currently on the screen. The enemies of the game are dragons of different sizes found both on the ground and in the air, dinosaurs, something that resembles butterflies, and other stranger things. Like in a typical Apogee platformer, many of the enemies are quirky-looking and a bit lame, but there are lots of knights around too and they actually look pretty good. They throw swords at you, and other enemies shoot fireballs and the like. You can counter such attacks by throwing a weapon right back at it, but some enemy fire requires other means to avoid. That's where the object Shield comes in handy. It morphs you away for a brief moment so that you're not hit. Speaking of morphing, there is a lot of it in this game and it's a cool effect. Some knights morph into wooden caskets when they die (now that's original), and these are filled with items. Other enemies may come morphing out of torches, the background or even out of thin air to attack you. Other cool stuff is quasi-3D modules shaped like revolving pyramids that you can shoot for points, and huge unformed things you must destroy in order to get certain keys. Some levels have gates with some sort of electric current that the warrior has to either pass through or shoot at in order to activate. Gates with green colored current can be passed through, and gates with red can not. When activated they in turn open other electric gates on the same screen or somewhere else on the level.
And now, the robot-issue. The game offers a second type of gameplay, and that is controlling a tiny robot. It lets you fly around and access places the warrior can't get to, and shoot lazer beams to activate gates or kill enemies. To get through certain levels you must switch back and forth between the robot and the warrior and move them to the right place at the right time. This involves a bit more planning and thinking then the usual gameplay, but the parts where you have the robot are the highlights of the game. I only wished they'd included him more as it would have made the game more interesting. The robot has its own ammo, and blows up if hit by enemies or their weapons. And when that happens, guess what - you're stuck. Press G.
Now, if all this stuff seem a bit too much for you then don't worry - Cold Dreams actually comes with a trainer that helps you to understand it's world, a rare thing for a mid 90's PC game. The game also supports joystick, and sound and music can be turned on and off individually during gameplay. An interesting note is that the music for this title was made with the Loudness Sound System, an Adlib tracker known for it's ritch sound back in the day. It was used to create music for games like Fuzzy's World of Miniature Space Golf, Dig it! and the classic Tyrian, and gave the Midi-format (mostly used in PC games at the time) a run for the money. While the tunes in Cold Dreams aren't as memorable as in those titles, they are nice enough and generate a fitting mood.
As you can see, Cold Dreams has a lot to offer a fan of the genre. It's a fun platformer, right up there with many Apogee games of the era, so I give it a solid 3. Still, it's sad that the one thing that separates Cold Dreams from the standard platformer - the robot - isn't available to you as much as it should. Had there been more usage of it, a change of the dumbest looking enemies, a more resonable plot and a matching game-title I would have given Cold Dreams (or as I call it - "Aliens Ate My Uncle") a 4.
This is originally a German verison translated to english by Juergen Hoffmann. Everything but the nag-screen at the beginning is in english. However, the game must have been released in english also since it had publishers one could order it from in United Kingdom, Australia and Canada (see Ordering on the game's menu). The only hint about the orgins of the game itself though comes from its creators names; Marosi Balązs and Jancsina Attila, which sound Hungarian.
How to run this game on modern Windows PC?
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Codename: Gordon, Chasm: The Rift, Colony 28, Command Adventures: STARSHIP, Claw, Charlie the Duck, Codename Eagle, Colorado
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