by Amber Hall
reviewed on PC
Games that fall into the point and click genre have, at least in my experience, always striven to push story telling norms and even go out of their way to make things as weird as possible. My favorite example comes in the form of The Neverhood, an old DOS point and click made entirely out of clay and set in one of the strangest worlds I've ever had the pleasure of clicking through. Lucid Dream is no exception here and, while the execution may not be perfect, the world presented is still delightfully strange.
You play as a little girl named Lucy who, in the real world, is a girl in a wheelchair dealing with the loss of her father and the effect of that loss on her mother. Every visual aspect in the real world reflects this darkness. Their house is dirty and dark even when the lights are turned on. Lucy's toys are in varying states of broken and there's nearly no color to anything around their house. It all comes together to give visual representation to the hopelessness of the characters, and I really like that the tone comes out so well in the visual details.
However, most of the game is played out in a sort of dream realm that Lucy enters in the hopes that she can find some way to bring her mother out of the deep depression she's fallen into. These worlds, although usually just as dark as Lucy's reality, provide some great surreal imagery that play into the idea that they're dreamscapes. These places are where the real meat of the game is to be found, mostly consisting of puzzles that differ widely in their difficulty and cleverness.
Some puzzles are so glaringly obvious that they serve as little more than a fetch quest. Others come across as a game of "guess what the developer was thinking." There are a few that hit that sweet spot that have you scratching your head until you finally get it and feel a great sense of accomplishment in doing so. However, it's much more common to be able to run through the puzzles in each area or get completely stopped by some sort of guessing puzzle. One puzzle that sticks out to me was early in the game where there's a series of switches and portals. Essentially, the player has to use lengthy trial and error to figure out which switch to put in which position to change where they're able to teleport to and from. This puzzle in particular really halted the pacing of the area and wasn't much fun to go though.
I feel like the biggest contributing factor to puzzles not hitting the mark are the small worlds you explore being split up from each other. While it's a feature of Lucid Dream I really enjoy, it seems like the puzzles suffer as a result. There's never any long-form puzzles that really keep you thinking about them as you progress because the world you explore is constantly changing. This makes it so that worlds tend to either have a series of small disjointed puzzles or one big puzzle that easily misses the mark and makes that world in particular one you wish you never traveled to.
In general, the game feels like it needs a bit more polish. The biggest thing to fix up would be some of the puzzles, where I think most would just need a little more restructuring. As far as presentation goes, the game mostly does well with its surreal themes, but the music doesn't do much in the way of tying the experience together. I found the music to be very repetitive and most tracks looped after just a few seconds, which really wore on me as I played. Moreover, the music never really stuck out to me in general. It feels rather bland, especially in comparison to some of the fantastically detailed places you explore.
Overall, Lucid Dream is a point and click game that won't wow you over some others like Broken Age or something really experimental like The Neverhood. The game's exploration on the effects of depression and loss are interesting and I really enjoyed the contrast between Lucy's reality and the dream worlds she explores. Lucid Dream's visual representation of this is mostly intriguing and pretty to look at, but it needs some better music to really pull the elements together.
Great visuals, SOME good puzzles, interesting story
Most puzzles didn't feel truly rewarding, The music loops too much and doesn't do much for the game overall