reviewed on PC
The (second) Longest Journey
I haven't played many adventure games, I really don't like the pace at which everything happens, you could be stuck someplace because you dropped the seemingly useless key you had picked up thirty hours ago and so you have to begin the whole game again. Dreamfall is an adventure game, and as such I wasn't expecting the kind of adventure I embarked on. But this game completely changed my vision on the genre. While it is your standard game with tons of box pushing and talking to people and solving puzzles, you will find that most of the puzzles are made only to advance the story and characters are interesting enough and fun enough to keep you playing till the end.
Dreamfall is the sequel to The Longest Journey and while it isn't strictly necessary to have played its predecessor to understand what's going on, it definitely helps. I haven't played it and there were many things that didn't quite make sense to me, especially at the early stages of the game. For example, the main character has just moved to Casablanca from somewhere and it seems like this is an important piece of information, but I'm not really sure where she lived before or why she moved. So, if you haven't played The Longest Journey yet, you might want to look into that.
Bring the popcorn
Upon starting the game, the main character, Zo' Castillo, is at home in her new house in Casablanca. Zo' has lost all faith in life, she has just dropped from school and the only thing she does these days is watch TV in her underwear (sounds strangely familiar). One day her father has to leave on a business trip and so Zo' is left home alone. After exploring a little, she talks with Reza, her ex-boyfriend. He is a writer for some kind of magazine or newspaper and is after a really big story but he needs Zo' to pick some software up from a building midtown. Once you get there you will find that the woman you are supposed to be searching for is trapped in a room filling with toxic gas. From there everything scales up to a massive conspiracy which includes a fat guy in a tub (I'm not joking) and the world's biggest corporation.
The story is told through wonderful videos which benefit greatly from interesting settings, great voice acting that is among the best I've heard in recent years, solid dialogue and interesting characters. The high quality of these videos is a blessing to the game because you will be seeing a whole lot of them throughout your adventures. There are times where you will play only a few movements before another video sets in. This reminds me a lot of the Metal Gear Solid series and although the videos aren't quite as good as that, they are still top notch.
Just one more... puzzle?
Characters are engaging but what really makes this game amazing is the atmosphere it creates. When you are infiltrating a corporation's main building you have to evade the guards. At every other corner, robots are blocking your way so you have to be really careful. While it really isn't difficult to evade the security (which is quite stupid to tell you the truth) the dark corridors and spooky music have you in a constant nervous state. To illustrate just how good this atmosphere is, I finished the game in two seatings. Short? Not really, it took me about twenty hours to finish it but the story is so engaging once you start uncovering something that you just have to go on (I will just see what happens to that girl and then I'll go to sleep. Ok, this time I mean it, I'll just see what happens to Reza and then I'm out). Both times I stopped playing well past midnight.
Among the many things you will be doing in this game is solving puzzles. There are box puzzles, "cell phone" puzzles where you have to match a pattern in the lower part of your screen with a matrix of shapes and solving 'lock pick' puzzles where you have to match the shapes in the upper and lower part of the screen. Many times you will have to call one of your friends to be able to continue, sometimes they will send you new software for your cellphone to be able to solve a puzzle. At other times they will provide vital information to solve the puzzle. I really liked the fact that most of the puzzles required little time to solve. Only occasionally you will have to run around to find some item that you didn't pick up when you first came across it.
Dreamfall is no dream
But Dreamfall isn't without errors. It has its more than fair share of bugs which are mostly caused by the environment. For example, I was hiding in a kitchen basement and decided to walk behind some pots that were hanging from the ceiling with a rope. I got stuck and had to reload my game. A few chapters later I wanted to walk between a pair of rocks. I got stuck and had to reload my game. A few chapters later I wanted to jump a crate. I got stuck and had to reload my game. Notice the pattern here? While the camera isn't really a problem in most of the game there's a chapter where you have to go through a cave evading the guard but since everything is so tight, the camera doesn't let you see a thing. Better get used to the game over screen. Another bothersome thing is all the loading required to get around, while loading times are short the game has to load almost every time your character turns.
The Shortest Journey
Dreamfall: The Longest Journey is an amazing game, certainly the best adventure game I have played in years. Withstanding horrible glitches and bugs, bad controls, obtrusive camera in some levels and one of the worst cases I've seen of the Evangelion Syndrome (you will understand as soon as you finish it) with it's intriguing storyline which features refreshing plot turns, high quality videos and great characters you should immediately take the shortest journey to your video game store to buy this one.
No Pros and Cons at this time