Review: Daydreamer: Awakened Edition (PS4)

daydreamer-awakened-edition-review-banner-yr10

Title: Daydreamer: Awakened Edition
Format: PlayStation Network Download (1.4 GB)
Release Date: July 12, 2016
Publisher: Atlus
Developer: Roland Studios
Original MSRP: $9.99 (US), €9.99 (EU), £8.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 12
Daydreamer: Awakened Edition is exclusive to PlayStation 4. The original game, Daydreamer, is available on PC.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Is this a remake of an old game? What is that young girl wearing? What on Earth is that? Why do birds suddenly appear? I pondered these and many more questions as I played this crazy game from a one-man studio.

Gameplay:
I often imagine a poster for the game that I am reviewing. What images would it have in order to get the attention of a passerby? What tagline it would it have to burrow into their memory and spark the imagination? Some are easy, with explosions and the main character throwing a punch or shooting a gun.

Now, I have Daydreamer: Awakened Edition to review and its poster is looking somewhat odd, to put it mildly. Just take a look at the developer’s description to get some idea of what that poster might look like:

“Daydreamer is the story about a transcendental metaphysical clairvoyant spiritually-evolved crystal child, who awakens from a hyperbaric chamber on her home planet that was taken over by evil aliens thousands of years ago. The world is a dangerous place with radioactive warfare, genetically mutated aliens, and giant bugs.” – Roland Studios

daydreamer-awakened-edition-ps4-scr-10 daydreamer-awakened-edition-ps4-scr-14

This side-scrolling shooter has an oddly complex control scheme. It’s definitely not a simple run and gun shooter. Well, okay it is, but you also have several other things your inappropriately dressed young girl could do. Some of it can be useful when mastering the higher difficulties.

You can shoot in forty-five degree angle increments much like the classic side-scrolling games of days gone by. In fact, much of this oddball game harkens back to those old games I grew up with, it just has a very bizarre premise. Now that I think of it, some of those old games did too.

… swim with a dolphin …
Each level has a different theme and boss character, some are quite easy to defeat and with the right weapons, only take a few seconds. That sounds quick doesn’t it? But that’s only because my character, for reasons that are never explained, has the ability to slow down time. Everything apart from the bullets moves at a snail’s pace for a limited time.

The scantily clad girl is also capable of teleporting a short distance. It’s enough to get you out of a sticky situation, but you also have to be aware of your surroundings as there are times where you will plummet to an off-screen death.

daydreamer-awakened-edition-ps4-scr-12 daydreamer-awakened-edition-ps4-scr-07

There are spirit animals that you collect to aid you in times of need, weapons to find, and secrets to unlock. You can even crash in a hotel to recover some health or swim with a dolphin. It may sound like I’m making this up and part of me wonders if it was just a dream… or should that be nightmare?

I cruised through the majority of the game in one quick sitting and only stopped to regain some normality. I am sure the harder difficulties offer some challenge but I did not want to stay in this slumber for any longer than I had to.

… Nothing is normal …
There are no gory moments. This is not a nightmare where Freddy Krueger disembowels a terrified victim, there is no blood. Just an uncomfortable awkwardness where everything is disjointed and wrong.

Visuals:
The graphical style reminds me of Donkey Kong Country, where the Stamper brothers made use of realistic 3D sprites using a Silicon Workstation to create a very impressive level of detail. Now this one-man studio has used that same style, probably without a Silicon Workstation, to create a very different kind of game indeed.

daydreamer-awakened-edition-ps4-scr-15 daydreamer-awakened-edition-ps4-scr-12

Nothing is normal. Everything evokes a dreamlike emotion in an almost unsettling way, especially when it comes to the grotesque bosses who seem to have been literally plucked from a vivid nightmare.

The visuals make my skin crawl, the worst being the strange outfit the young character is wearing. I cannot help thinking it’s just pants, and when I say pants, I speak of the English meaning of the word, underwear. Oh and whilst we are on the subject, why is it Americans call it a fanny pack, please do not as that word means something wildly inappropriate in rainy old England.

… It succeeds in being wrong in every way …
Audio:
Unlike the rest of the game most of the music is quite normal and in that regard, slightly out-of-place. It reminds me of an action packed 16-Bit era game, which I guess fits well with the graphical style and is similar to the old and dated cumbersome control scheme.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is singleplayer only with no online component.

daydreamer-awakened-edition-ps4-scr-05 daydreamer-awakened-edition-ps4-scr-03

Conclusion:
Daydreamer: Awakened Edition has some good ideas swirling around in the garbled dream that makes up this unique game. With a muddled array of weapons, abilities, and spirit animals, you take on bizarre chaotic adversaries with no rhyme or reason to be in such a mare’s nest of a troubled mind.

Technically, there is nothing wrong with the game. It succeeds in being wrong in every way, like the memory of a dream you had as a child that haunts your subconscious. None of it makes sense and may even make you feel somewhat nauseous near the end.

Some will delight in the harder difficulty options and even revel in the unsettling Ranked mode. However, for me, I am awake and disinclined to dream that unsettling dream again. The game would probably have the tagline, WTF?

Score:
7.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook