Dream Web

Developer/Publisher:  Empire Interactive
Year Released:  1994

Review by Rosemary Young (April, 1995)

dweb.jpgI must confess I'm not partial to games that make a feature of gory sequences, but despite knowing Dream Web's record in this respect, when I began playing and saw all the things I could do, all the items I could manipulate and pop into my inventory, I was more than willing to give it a go.

The story begins when you (Ryan), a humble bar worker, wake up at your girlfriend, Eden's flat after yet another portentous dream. (You have been having them for months). In this dream, though, you were finally enlightened. You learned about the Dream Web, this web of magical energy made up of 'pure thoughts' (the stuff of our dreams and our subconscious) and how it is anchored by seven human nodes. But the seven nodes have succumbed to evil and the Web is about to unravel and cause havoc. And you are the 'chosen one' in which the 'seed' has been planted so that it is your destiny to face these fiends and eliminate them.

So far so good
Out to save the world. Not a totally new idea, but I'm not immune to playing the hero. So, loaded to the brim with every potentially useful item, I bade Eden farewell and returned to my flat where there were clues enough to capture the interest of any adventure player. Yes, and more items of interest to pick up as well. But, despite this hopeful start, ultimately the game let me down, even without the stream of bloody scenes that I was forced to leave in my wake.

For an experienced adventurer I can say that the puzzles in this game were of average difficulty. One of the things that let them down was the use of the all-purpose 'use' verb, which shaved off a fair slice of difficulty, and the game had another annoying peculiarity that helped to lessen their impact. Each time an on-screen object was selected, if it could be acted upon by an inventory item, then your inventory flashed open. Very helpful indeed. In fact, if you hadn't already figured it out, this little 'touch' told you exactly which object to focus your attention on in that screen, as well as indicating that you couldn't do anything unless you had the right item to do it with.

Colourless game
Still, it wasn't really the puzzles that let this game down. It was just so dark and depressing. Colourless, in fact, which was primarily due to the 'top down' perspective that often seems to limit games in this way. Dream Web was so dreary it was difficult to maintain any enthusiasm at all. And the characterisation of Ryan was very confusing. I never did come to grips with the poor fellow. In the opening sequence when told of his mission to kill, he implored, 'must they be destroyed', (hardly the response of a killer), and he didn't know one end of a gun from the other before he acquired one, yet he (and you), nevertheless, manage to kill without a second thought. Odd for someone so 'innocent' and especially as your targets are very 'human', and defenceless, not to mention vulnerable. Where was the moral dilemma that such a character surely would have faced?

One-sided confrontations
This just didn't sit right. At the very least I expected to confront opponents of equal strength and dispatch them in some sort of heroic battle, although Ryan's initial reluctance suggested that there might have been some other way to deal with the problem. Not so. Killing defenceless and even seriously wounded foes was the order of the day, and it wasn't very inspiring even though they were, supposedly, 'evil'.

Quite frankly, this story made no pretence at sophistication. Not even the final sequence saved it. There were a few teasing puzzles but they were well and truly overshadowed by the dreary atmosphere. As far as I can see this title is only notable for the string of severed arms and mutilated bodies you will see and, of course, the 'sex' scene where you surprise one of your victims in bed with his lover. Although it had potential, it petered out almost as soon as it began. rating:  

Copyright © Rosemary Young 1995. All rights reserved.

System requirements: 386 or higher