Review: Dare to Dream (Windows – 16 Bit)

By Drew Wilson

This review looks at an early 1990’s video game for the PC. While today, it won’t run on most systems unless you emulate Windows 3.1 (can be done through DosBox), it was an interesting game that has been “lost” in the public consciousness for the most part.

It’s OK if you don’t know this game given its age, but the designer of the game went on to make the more familiar title’s like “Unreal Tournament” and “Gears of War”. So, if you want to go back to his humble beginnings in game design, this game is an interesting way to start.

Dare 2 Dream is an adventure puzzle game that revolves around the twisted imagination of a ten year old boy. It is divided into three episodes – the first episode being the shareware version of the game and the other two for those who had the chance to purchase it.

According to Wikipedia, Dare to Dream was released in early 1993. This was perhaps the era that was an absolute breeding ground for creativity and talent in video games because personal computers were just starting to boom back then and anyone with some computer coding knowledge could create something small out of nothing and either make a fortune or prove to companies that they have the skills to make something big.

When you start the game, you find yourself in an alleyway filled with garbage. You have an inventory pouch, a message box and a first person perspective window. When you mouse around, you have a context sensitive cursor which can change from a magnifying glass to denote something to either look at, a talk bubble to denote that you can talk to someone, or pick up or an exit cursor which denotes you being able to move from one area to another.

As you progress through the game, you quickly realize that you are merely in a dream and need to find a way out somehow. The items you utilize are probably some of the strangest you can imagine such as a dead fish being used as a key and broken glass to collect a flower. What’s also notable as you progress is the fact that the game gradually gets more and more twisted such as starting with hanging out in a bar to eventually figuring out what to do with someone who had been skinned in a blood filled room in a later episode.

The audio in the game utilizes the limited MIDI sequence audio format. Even so, it wasn’t a bad implementation of the instruments afforded to the developer (although it was still best to play with no music eventually in my opinion). The use of sound effects actually peaks when you shoot someone in the face (in the cartoon sense). Beyond that, you’re pretty much limited to the weird low blip sound when you’re moving from one location to another. Still, sound effects aren’t really a must for a game like this anyway, so it’s actually not a big drag on the overall experience.

The quality of graphics varies very widely throughout the game. At first, the graphics are actually fairly well done in the first episode, but in the second episode with the castle, the graphics quality takes a huge dive, making it seem like it was put together in MS Paint in about an hour. Then, in the third episode, everything is that weird blue color and some items are solid blue as well. This made it really difficult to see some of the items, but the tree fort in the second episode was decently put together. So, it looked like some parts of this game was rushed while others were painstakingly put together.

The overall difficulty also ranges widely as well. At some parts of the game, you are flying through and able to get a lot accomplished. Then, at other parts of the game, you spend hours wondering if the designer has a solution in place to allow the player to progress because you’ve scanned the scene five times trying to find something to get the progress of the game moving again.

Overall, this game is well worth the pain of trying to fire back up again. It has a certain charm to it that makes it rather playable in the end. It was, after all, a puzzle game that was later emulated by numerous junior game developers in the years since then as they plug little functions into Adobe Flash. For that reason, this game, in a sense, was ahead of its time and pretty well done.

Furthest point made it in game: All three episodes beaten.

General gameplay: 19/25
Replay value: 8/10
Graphics: 7/10
Audio: 3/5
Overall Score: 74%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85

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