Review code provided with many thanks to Blockcode Games.
DreamCell: Lost in Nightmares is a top-down action game with roguelike elements, the demo has recently been released to Steam. Rather than be sensible and get some sleep I decided to give the game a shot to deliver some early impressions of this upcoming indie project.
The premise is you are a little kid tucking in for the night, whilst your carer or mother appears to be going out to party. The game is set within this boy’s dreams or maybe a nightmare in this case. Usually when I dream about video games it’s because I’ve played them a bit too much. I’m still haunted by the planet mining mini-game in Mass Effect 2. Luckily for the player, DreamCell is unlikely to cause bad dreams in real life.
Top Down Action
The gameplay is quite straightforward. As a weird black oily looking figure you need to move from room to room defeating all the enemies before progressing. Each room is randomly generated with different enemies and hazards each time. And yes, this game has buzzsaws. If you’re lucky a room may feature a new weapon or item that can be used to help or in some cases hinder your gameplay experience. These weapons are melee or ranged based, with the ranged ones being the ideal pick if you want to survive. You can only carry your starting weapon and one more, so on occasion, you may need to swap out. Weapons are quite weird and unusual, such as a wand that shoots ghosts or one that fires out a giant spider which ended up being my favourite weapon of the experience.
Wacky Weapon Designs
These wacky weapon designs certainly go well with the dream world design. When you start you only have access to one character who proudly wears a crown and wields a sword as a starting weapon. If you manage to make it to the boss and survive you will unlock a new character with a different starting weapon and stats. The structure is very linear, once you finish one room you progress upwards to the next, you can’t backtrack to the previous room so be sure to swap out items before you move on as it is impossible to get lost in this nightmare. It’s simple arcade-like gameplay which does the job for a quick gaming session but doesn’t appear to offer much variety to its simple formula.
DreamCell can be played alone or with a friend in local co-op mode. If you like your speed running you can also make use of a speed run mode and attempt to be the first world record runner for the game if you’re into that. Achievements are also available. The main drive to replay is to unlock new characters and try to progress a little further each time.
Graphics are simple animated sprites with what feels like a sepia tone filter over it. It actually presents quite well giving the whole “experience the nightmare feel” I think it’s going for. You can also choose to change the colour palette to black and white in the options menu. There is a large random assortment of enemies to encounter each with its own unique attacks and animations.
I was quite impressed that with each subsequent run I kept encountering a new enemy. The soundtrack and sounds are kept quite simple, enemies make an explosive sound when defeated, it’s ok but nothing special.
Don’t Dream, It’s Over
DreamCell: Lost in Nightmares has a delightful indie charm to it but it does appear very similar to the famous hit Binding of Isaac. There is nothing wrong with games using similar concepts and DreamCell does do enough to differentiate itself with its art style and gameplay. But the slight trouble it may have is Binding of Isaac is quite beloved by a dedicated fan base, so, DreamCell may need to work extra hard to convince PC gamers to give it a try. One thing I will say is that DreamCelll has significantly less poop than Binding of Isaac.
DreamCell: Lost in Nightmares shows promise. An entertaining action game to play alone or with a loved one that won’t leave you having nightmares. This may make for a decent Halloween game night. Be sure to check out the free demo on Steam and add it to your wish list to help out an indie developer.