Review: Dreams is a transformative content creation tool for the PS4

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Even if you don’t touch the creation tool, you’ll have plenty to play through user-created content.

I’m having a hard time writing a traditional review for Dreams because it’s not a conventional game. It’s transformative. There are so many pieces to it that it almost transcends what it’s meant to be. At its core, it’s a development tool. But it’s so much more than that. Players can create games within games within games. The limit is your imagination because I’ve seen some truly incredible creations that I can’t believe were made in Dreams.

On the flip side, I doubt that most people will be able to create such fantastical Dreamiverses, as they’re called, because of the sheer depth in its editing tool. That means players can make more intricate creations, but it also makes it a lot harder to do so. Within my first few hours of playing, I managed to create a couple of very basic scenes that amounted to a floor and maybe a couple of straight walls. I think there was some grass. A cobblestone bridge may have been haphazardly thrown together.

If I had to describe my intentions versus what I actually created, I think the Netflix show Nailed It would be an apt comparison. You know those shots of beautiful cakes the contestants are meant to recreate and then the abominations that the amateur bakers end up with? It’s like that. Thankfully, Dreams does a lot of hand-holding. I know that’s usually not what you want to hear about a game, but trust me when I say it’s a good thing here.

For all of the tools at your disposal, it’s incredibly intimidating to get started, even as Dreams attempts to guide you as smoothly as possible through the process of creating your own scenes. But once you take advantage of some helpful creation tools that auto snap objects into place and get the hang of things, a whole new world emerges.

Create anything

Dreams

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Bottom line: A true spiritual successor to LittleBigPlanet, Dreams is the pinnacle of content creation for the masses. It’s a transformative game that will be talked about and played for years to come. Now we need to wait and see how good its PSVR support is.

The Good

  • Intuitive menus, tagging, and search options
  • Extensive creation tool
  • Curated user-created content
  • Helpful tutorials
  • Nearly limitless potential
  • Masterclass with the developers

The Bad

  • Dreams PSVR not supported at launch
  • UI and creation tools can be overwhelming
  • Standard controls are awful

$40 at Amazon US
$50 at Amazon Canada

Disclaimer: This review was made possible by a review code provided by Sony Canada. The company did not see the contents of the review before publishing.

Dreams What I like

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Half of the battle in any game, especially one like this, is ensuring that the UI and all of its menus are intuitive. Players need to be able to find a lot of information in a short amount of time, lest they screw around aimlessly. Dreams does a wonderful job of presenting all of this to people. Dream creation and Dream surfing (browsing through others’ work) are in clearly defined menus. You’re able to tag your creations and search for specific tags depending on what you want to play. When you’re creating, you can also search for items to use and easily pin important tools to the side of the screen for quick use.

Dreams is the pinnacle of content creation for the masses.

The creation tool itself is extensive. It’s easier to ask what you can’t do with it rather than what you can because you can create just about anything if you’re skilled enough. From character models to environments, you can change objects right down to their textures and colors. You can even program it so that objects and characters interact with your character in a certain way, depending on if you’re friend or foe. I can’t even begin to describe how detailed it is. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Dreams creation is something you need to experience for yourself to fully understand what you’re dealing it.

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I knew content creation wouldn’t be for me, so I ended up spending a lot of my time Dream surfing, looking at other people’s content. That’s not a knock on the creation tool; it’s just a personal preference. When it comes to other creators, it was almost a little discouraging seeing the types of amazing creations they made compared to measly stuff. But with practice comes success. This discouragement was quickly wiped away with a sense of awe. I saw Sonic and Mario and Arthur Morgan from Red Dead Redemption 2. Someone even made T-Rex Run. Like an exact copy. It’s nearly identical to the real thing. And it might as well be.

And they’re not all the same type of game with reskins. You can genuinely create some unique content that other people haven’t. You can set specific goals or restrictions. This made browsing through everything a lot of fun because I never knew what I would come across.

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There are dozens of quests that act as tutorials to get your feet wet when you’re first starting out and throughout your journey. The best part is that you’re not even forced to use them. After the initial introduction, you’re free to do whatever you want — though some creations are locked until you complete specific quests. But they don’t feel like chores. They’re there to use as you please. Dreams doesn’t force you in any one direction.

Those looking for a more in-depth experience will find masterclass videos with developers from Media Molecule aimed at helping you create professional-level designs. This was way out of my league, but I checked some of them out, and they do a great job of walking you through the steps it takes to create something more advanced.

Dreams What I don’t like

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For as in-depth as the creation tool is, it can also be extremely overwhelming. It’s a double-edged sword in that regard. You can’t make something as intricate as Dreams without taking some concessions on accessibility in terms of how easy the game is to pick up immediately. I can’t speak for how accessible it is to those with disabilities — the motion controls could help or hinder some people — but the creation tool itself can be so complex that people may not stick with it after those first few frustrating hours. There are tutorials to help you get through it, but that doesn’t always make it a lot easier, depending on what you are doing. Media Molecule does its best to guide you with varying levels of success. Just one look at the tool is enough to intimidate amateur creators. And after the first few hours of playing it, it was still moderately difficult for me.

It’s a shame that VR support wasn’t ready at launch.

Anyone attempting to avoid motion controls, don’t. Motion controls are almost necessary in Dreams given how clunky the analog controls are. There is an option to turn them off and switch entirely to the analog sticks on your controller, but this makes it much harder to create anything. I’m not someone who usually likes motion controls, but Media Molecule does a great job of implementing them here.

It’s a shame that VR support wasn’t ready at launch. I can’t judge what’s not there, and it’s undoubtedly a complete game without it, but PSVR would add a whole new dimension to it that just isn’t there right now. Media Molecule said that VR support would come at a later date.

Should you buy Dreams? Yes

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If you’re an aspiring game designer, I can’t think of a better, more accessible (and cheap) tool for you to get than Dreams. It’s amazing what Media Molecule pulled off here. Even if you aren’t one to create something, there’s always an ever-growing list of user-created content for you to hop into. There’s no limit to what you can create or play.

It’s hard to put Dreams in a box and define is as one genre. Yes, it’s a development tool, but it’s also so much more. It’s the perfect outlet for anyone to let their imagination run wild.

4.5
out of 5


Aside from some wonky analog controls almost necessitating motion controls, it should be easy for just about anyone to pick up. The content creation tool can be a bit intimidating, but you’re given enough tutorials and guided with intuitive menus to make the process as painless as possible.

Limitless possibilities

Dreams

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$40 at Amazon US

$50 at Amazon Canada

Let your imagination run wild

A true spiritual successor to LittleBigPlanet, Dreams is the pinnacle of content creation for the masses. It’s a transformative game that will be talked about and played for years to come. Now we need to wait and see how good its PSVR support is.