Insane in the membrane – DreamWeb
DreamWeb is one of the most unique point & click adventures that I know of. It was developed for the Amiga and MS-DOS by a small British studio called Creative Reality back in 1994. I consider it to be a good example of a how a small budget game could utilize the hardware limitations of the time to create a very gripping and memorable gaming experience.
The game came supplied with a diary written by the protagonist, and it’s a great example of the kind of storytelling that was done in game manuals that’s become a lost artform. Not only do you need to read it to find certain passwords required for advancing in the game, it also gives you a peak into the demented mind of Ryan, the game’s protagonist.
The writing gets more incoherent the further you get, and certain words like “Seven” and “Dreamweb” start to repeat. There are actually typos in the text as well, to enhance its realism. And even Ryan himself has realized that something isn’t right by reading entries from days he has no recollection of. At the start of the game, he receives a message in his dreams to kill seven specific people to stop some kind of doomsday scenario from occurring.
Even though there’s not much to the story, the unstable mental state of Ryan paints every single action you perform in this game in a questionable light. The ending scene is open to interpritation and among the most memorable and striking that I’ve seen in a video game.
DreamWeb also distinguishes itself mechanically. You can pick up every object in the game and solutions to puzzles are fairly intuitive. Put a key to a door, replace a blown fuse, that sort of thing. There’s no insane adventure game logic to be found here.
The graphics aren’t that great as everything looks tiny, but there’s a magnifying glass to help you see what it is you’re looking at. There’s a certain charm to the low-fidelity graphics that many modern games with intentionally primitive graphics fail to match in my opinion. Despite low level of visual fidelity, there’s nice attention to detail in some scenes, like leaves in a houseplant becoming bloody when you shoot a guy. What’s notable is that even with such limited animation, it feels like your actions have “weight to them”.
The dreary atmosphere is also top notch. The game is set in a cyberpunk-ish near future version of London, and it mostly takes place in rainy streets, seedy bars and cramped and untidy apartments. The exploration of these locales is accompanied by incredibly gloomy and ominous ambient music. Even the amateurish voice acting adds to the charm of this game. The uncertainty and lack of emotion of Ryan’s voice actor actually enhances the melancholic mood.
As a game, DreamWeb isn’t particularly good. But despite its lackluster gameplay, it comes recommended for fans of gloomy cyberpunk tales. As a historic relic, it’s interesting from a narrative perspective, as Amiga games faced less censorship than console games of the era.
Developer: Creative Reality
Publisher: Empire Interactive
Platform: MS DOS, Amiga
PEGI rating: None