The Last Dream (Developer's Edition)
Year Published: 2015
Publisher: Specialbit Studios
Developer: Specialbit Studios
The Last Dream is a hidden object game that embodies every goofball thing I love about this genre - strange fantastic worlds, a mysterious plot, good artwork and music, lots of item finding and puzzle solving, and your helper is a talking cat. What more could I possibly want?
One of Ben's first tasks is to help this talking cat.
You are in the role of Ben, a man who lost his wife, Elizabeth, in a tragic car accident. Lately Ben keeps having dreams about Elizabeth - he finds himself in either a familiar or unfamiliar setting as the ghost of his wife appears and walks off into the distance, beckoning him to follow. But every time he tries, an unknown force that he calls "the Barrier" comes between them. The Barrier always puts up an obstacle that forces Ben to do hidden object game things to surpass it and continue his journey to find his deceased wife and solve the mystery of what she's leading him to.
A novelty of The Last Dream is that Ben and Elizabeth are played by real people in live action movie segments that tell the story between areas (Ben is the game's main designer). This is a gimmick I've seen in HOG's before, but, as cheesy as it is, it actually works for this game.
Paradoxically, it makes sense because of the nonsensical nature of dreams - the video footage captures how real dreams can seem, while the hand-drawn fantasy environments represent their less sensible side. Ben can walk up to an ordinary-looking lake, take off his shirt, and dive into it, but the strange aquatic world he finds underwater is far more cartoon-like. Each area follows this pattern, whether Ben finds himself outside a creepy windmill in the middle of the night, or shrinking down to the size of an insect, resigning him to construct a paper airplane to escape what would otherwise be an ordinary office room.
Ben seems capable of breathing underwater, but the cat needs a snorkel.
Like many HOG's, The Last Dream is short, even when including its bonus chapter, but it can be very difficult to solve if you don't use the hint button. Every area contains multiple screens and many objects that can be picked up or interacted with, and it's not always easy to figure out what goes where. All HO scenes use fragmented objects - you find parts of things to put together and then use the completed item somewhere in the scene. These tend to be harder than list-style scenes just by their nature. The puzzles are generally not too easy or difficult, with the hardest being one in which you move pearls to form different shapes. I'll forgive that one of them is an Eight Queens Problem - I keep the solution to this onhand as I've done it enough times.
There's also remembering to use the cat. The cat is undoubtedly my favorite thing about this game. He can do ordinary cat things like chase mice and dig up sand, but he can also tangle with a snake to turn it into a garden hose, and he wears a snorkel mask while underwater. One of the optional sidequests is collecting cat-related items for him, so if you want all the achievements, and you see something a cat might like in the background, pick it up.
Beautifully creepy windmill!
One of the main reasons anyone would give for playing hidden object games is for relaxation. Another wonderfully whimsical aspect of The Last Dream is its ASMR-inducing qualities. The pretty environments are accompanied by ethereal music and sound effects, while the voiceovers spoken in hushed tones and (sometimes) whispers will appeal to those who like YouTube's whispering ASMRtists.
My only complaint is that some of the ambient sounds are repetitive, especially in the underwater scenes. I sometimes had to turn the sound off when I got stuck for long periods of time.
Having a small problem here...
As The Last Dream draws to a close, Ben travels further into the places of his past memories and towards a plot twist I probably should've seen coming, but didn't. What follows is an awkwardly cute cinematic ending while a Pinkzebra vocal song plays over the end credits. It's hoaky as heck, but it only made me love it even more. Clearly, the people who made this game were proud of it, and I would be, too.
If all this sounds good to you, but you're still unsure, there's a free demo on Steam. Try it if you like HOG's, and see if Ben's dreams are compelling enough to keep you as engaged as I was.