The sheer power and complexity of mobile games nowadays is inspiring, and equally frightening. For a small fee, you can take the phone out of your pocket and play Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas wherever you are in the world. Considering it was the height of gaming excellence just ten years ago on Playstation 2, you can see how far miniaturized technology has come and how quickly it’s catching up to the modern-day market.
Nowadays, when I see a high-standard of graphics in a game like Dream Revenant, I’m no longer stunned and surprised. I have started to expect a certain level of entertainment quality, clearly spoiled by the sheer volume of content at my fingertips. And unfortunately, underneath the glitz and glamour, Dream Revenant trips up over numerous technical hurdles far too many times to be taken seriously.
Made in the same style as Myst, Dream Revenant is a first person adventure where players need to tap and swipe their way through various sets of puzzles in order to unravel a forty-year old mystery. Players assume the role of Carson Hughes, a man on his deathbed, who must dig through his subconscious, piecing together clues about his existence, while reliving key parts of his life in a dream-like state. The areas all have a special meaning to Carson, and it’s down to the player to figure out their significance. On your journey, you’ll collect crowbars, skeleton keys and hammers, and have to use them in very different ways in order to progress the adventure.
The premise is certainly interesting and I’m definitely one for supporting unique experiences, but sadly, it doesn’t quite work out. Dream Revenant’s frame rate often stutters and stammers along when you’re simply trying to move around its semi open-world. The game fails to properly explain Carson’s unique sets of powers or how to tackle its bizarre mini-games (fortunately, they are pretty self-explanatory after the first attempt) and worst of all, the graphics easily corrupt.
Which brings me to my main problem with the game.
You may come across some sections that are completely game-breaking and will prevent you from continuing on with the story. The land can pop in and out, you can quite often get stuck on the scenery and remain unable to move, textures corrupt, the game hard-crashes. Everything that could go wrong, does go wrong.
I’ve played many games for review, big and small, in my five years as a journalist, but never have I encountered a game-breaking glitch so bad that I’ve had to throw in the towel and contact my editor to say ‘What now?’
In fairness, I have read many reviews where people didn’t experience a single issue with Dream Revenant and had an enjoyable time with the game. I have also read many reviews where people had similar problems to me. Unfortunately, I got unlucky, so can only base a critique on my own experience with the game. I know the developers are working overtime to fix things, but from a critical perspective, that just makes me feel the game should never have launched in the first place.
Speed Bump Studios should be commended for trying to broach a hard-hitting subject on the platform, encouraging players to plug in their earphones, immerse themselves and actually pay attention to what’s happening. I can absolutely see what they’re trying to do here, and I think the narrative is very bold, brave and quite inspiring – the comic books, in particular, are a wonderful touch – but when I pay money for a product, I expect to be able to play it from beginning to end. I wasn’t even using old technology: I had an iPhone 5S and iPad Retina in hand.
These kinds of glitches and errors are inexcusable in, what is supposed to be, a finished end-product.
Speed Bump Studios have two major lessons to learn from the launch of Dream Revenant. Never release something half-finished and always stress test thoroughly. Dream Revenant could have been a halmark mobile gaming moment. Instead, it’s a masterclass in how to make a mess out of the best of intentions.