by Jacob Klitz
reviewed on PC
Bad Dream: Fever is a thought-provoking piece that proves there is a thin line between video games and art; if there is even a line to begin with. Working with simple, point-and-click mechanics, the gameplay takes a backseat to the art direction which favors a melancholic tone and a mostly black and white color palette, though hints of blue and red are present. Familiarity with the games predecessor, Bad Dream: Coma, is welcome, but unnecessary as the themes are similar, though the characters and story are independent of the previous installment.
Without going into exhausting detail, the story of, Fever, places you in the protagonist's nightmare. The setting is a post-apocalyptic, dystopian future where only you and your 'friend', seem to be the sole-survivors. Bodies are scattered across the expansive, which city covered in blue ink, like a virus, and it is up to you and your friend, to find out what caused the epidemic and ultimately find a cure.
As stated, the art direction does this game loads of favors. The use of black and white over a full color palette works thematically to create a more desolate, fever-induced, nightmarish backdrop while the hints of blue — the 'ink' — are scattered about to add more discomfort. The sprites are just as effective as the backgrounds, utilizing line art and shading to create dynamic, comic-like, images that are pleasant to look at.
With even the most impressive/effective art design, there will always be at least one notable flaw. There were many instances throughout my playthrough where I was more-or-less stuck because I was missing a key-item needed to progress. Usually I would back-track to a previous location and find items with no problem, but more times than once I was not able to locate a key item. As I clicked around the screen, I would find items completely by accident due to them blending in with the background. The use of greyscale is, again, effective, but adding an additional visual cue to important items would make the game run a bit smoother.
As a point-and-click game on the shoulders of greats like, Monkey Island, or, King’s Quest; the core mechanic of, Fever, is puzzle solving. Puzzles range between following instructions from a blueprint you taped together to poisoning an alligator with absolutely no in-between. Admittedly there were times where the puzzles stumped me and hindered my progression but solving them always felt rewarding.
While the puzzles were creative — some were even fourth-wall breaking and absurdly clever — there were a couple of instances where the puzzles were either too complicated or the solution felt too non-sensical for the realistic/serious tone of this game. For example, during one of the last segments of the game the player needs to feed a cat some food out of a can. The catch? The can is empty and needs to be filled with fresh food. Seems simple as the label indicates the ingredients, but I found myself stumped when I had to collect one mouse. I recalled a mouse earlier in my playthrough and I went back to collect it. It was still alive, and I couldn’t pick it up. I left for a while, explored, and came back. The mouse was dead for some reason and I was able to finish the puzzle. While the game rewarded me for remembering the mouse, there wasn’t enough feedback to effectively tell me what I had done differently to create this outcome.
On the subject of gameplay, this game suffers one additional flaw. Tutorials and assistance in games are more than welcome as they help introduce players to new mechanics and strange, new worlds. Fever goes a bit too far with the hints as your friend, enjoys contacting you on a semi-constant basis to offer advice that may spoil a puzzle or simply add more dialogue, slows down gameplay.
ATTENTION TO DETAIL
One often overlooked aspect of any game is the sound design. The ambient sound-effects and somber music add yet another layer of texture, adding even more life to this artistic marvel. At no point in the game does the soundtrack become repetitive or even distracting. The differing sounds added to all the clickable objects throughout each location are a welcome little touch and display a great attention to detail. Even if an object is just a set-piece used in the background, there is a good chance that clicking on it will yield a sound of some kind and this encourages exploration.
Overall, Bad Dream: Fever, is a beautifully written, beautifully drawn, beautifully designed game that does a tremendous job molding a realistic world with the uncertainty of a nightmare. The characters presented are memorable, even if one of them talks too much, and clearly a lot of time went into their design as they fit perfectly into this world. The backgrounds and clickable sprites are all drawn with utmost care and attention to detail, making them the most impressive aspect of this game. The puzzles, while some were more cumbersome/clunky than others, were enjoyable and satisfying to solve. This game would be perfect for fans of the point-and-click genre as well as fans of a good mystery game.
Creative/interesting puzzles, compelling narrative, incredible art-style
Chatty AI, some convoluted puzzles, objects blending into background