Close encounters of a sick mind

Weird Dreams logo

MICROPROSE has at last got around to releasing a Rainbird game that I first saw in back in June 1988. Weird Dreams is a collection of strange arcade games arranged to form an ongoing dream.

As we all know, dreams being what they are, the contents of them can jump from topic to topic or scene to scene in an instant, which is as good an excuse for sticking all these quite different games together as any. If anything this is the subconscious version of The Games: Summer Edition.

Life in the dreamscape of Serrano, Hutchby and King, the co-designers, begins on the operating table - and it frequently ends there, before you, the patient, tumble into the first dream, a candyfloss machine.
Beware the giant floss stick which penetrtes the sanctity of the tooth decay special. The candy whirls around and around, with the stick harvesting it relentlessly. The object here is to collect pieces of candy by standing up and letting them stick to you, and then jumping on to the stick the next time it comes around.
Needless to say this isn't easy, as it is necessary to spend most of the time crouched down to avoid being brained. As in all the worst dreams, your character stands up with all the speed of a sloth covered in treacle.

Once out of the candyfloss machine you find yourself at a fun-fair, one that is populated by a very large wasp. This is where the candy stuck to your chequered pyjamas comes in handy. Escaping from there to the hall of mirrors is easy, but now you have three choices of dreams to pursue in your bid to finish the game and wake up.

There are actually five mirrors but two of them are boarded up until you complete the other three. So, the choice is left, right or straight ahead?

Going straight on leads to another encounter with the candy-floss machine, while the other two choices lead to experiences in a desert and an English country garden, along with the music for it.

The desert is the strangest one. Overhead flies a flock of fish, one of which you must leap up and grab. Off you then go, and watch out for the amazing scrolling. In my dreams games always have ultra fast, super smooth parallax scrolling with planes of different resolutions gliding by. Unfortunately those sort of games tend to only exist in my dreams.

This game has amazing pause-o-flip scrolling. Reach the end of the screen and there's a pause for you to recover your breath, and then the next screen is scrolled totally in. Very impressive, I'm sure.

Anyway, you're plodding through this desert in your pyjamas waving a cod around when up pops the most ugly thing you've ever seen, unless you've been to Brentwood and seen the people working on this magazine. It's all springy legs, neck and head.
Whatever you think it is, whack it one with your cod before it springs at you. Of course there are lots of these things awaiting, but that's dreamland for you.

The garden scene has you picking up a stick and attempting t force your way past a bed of vicious red roses, which isn't too hard providing you stick at long range and thrust at them.
Weird Dreams may be a good deal more subtle than the Nightmare on Elm Street series of splatter fests but there is quite a nasty surprise waiting if you take too long getting past the roses. Up from behind comes a very large lawnmower.

Past the roses and there's a sweet little girl waiting who wants to play ball. Unfortunately, she also has a large knife. Get too close to the little urchin and...

A lot of Weird Dreams is quite unpleasant, but some things seem to have been cut out since I last saw the program. The screams when you get killed have gone, although they are still in the ST version apparently, and so has the end sequence when you lose all your lives and the surgeons leer horrible and lunge at you with a very large knife.

The music is disappointing on both the title page and during the game. A talented musician could have had a field day with the theme of frightening nightmares, but what we've end up with lacks any feeling of menace at all.

The same could be said of the game itself. There are plenty of god ideas and classical dream elements in there, but it is all let down by dull graphics and bad programming.

Weird Dreams logo

Nicht wenige Amiga-User werden schon geraume Zeit von Alpträumen verfolgt - seit sie "Weird Dreams" am Erzrivalen ST gesehen haben! Wann würde dieses wahnwitzige Spiel endlich auch ihre "Freundin" heimsuchen? Es ist soweit...

Schwerkrank und mit dem Tode ringend liegt Steve auf dem OP-Tisch; durch den Schleier der einsetzenden Narkose kann er gerade die Umrisse der umstehenden Ärzte und Pfleger erkennen.

Da traben auch schon die ersten Nachtmahre durch sein benebeltes Hirn: die wirrsten Träume überfallen ihn, phantastischen Gestalten treiben ihr Unwesen - und er ist mittendrin! Nach einem tiefen Sturz in wabernde Wolkenmassen wacht Steve in einem Zuckerwatterkessel auf, immer noch mit seinem Pyjama bekleidet. Plötzlich purzeln Zuckerstücke herab und der Holzrüher senkt sich in den kreisenden Kessel. Steve's Kopf schwillt an bis zum Platzen, die Augen quellen heraus - und eines der fünf Traum-Leben ist verwirkt!

Einen Fluch ausstoßen, schmeißt man den Joystick in die Ecke. Wenn diese verdammte Steuerung nicht so langsam wäre, hätte man den armen Steve nämlich ohne weiteres retten können! Damit sind wir schon beim einzigen Schwachpunkt dieses Games: Die unheimlich lahme Steuerung weckte uns immer wieder unsanft aus den schönsten Alpträumen.

Viel Üben ist daher angesagt, bis die mangelnde Genauigkeit durch Erfahrung ausgeglichen ist. Aber die Mühsal wird reich belohnt, denn jeder weitere Level hält neue, schreckliche Erlebnisse bereit - sei es, dass man von einem Fußball verspeist wird oder fleischfressenden Tulpen die Zähne ausschlagen muß, damit einen der Rasenmäher nicht zerfetzt! Steve bekommt in seinen Narkoseträumen die schwierigsten Aufgaben gestellt, deren Lösung dem Spieler eine Menge Geduld und Grips abverlangen.

Herrliche Grafik, ansprechende Animationen, skurrile Gags und die verrückte Spielidee halten einen unerbittlich am Bildschirm gefangen (Leider auch die fehlende Möglichkeit, Spielstände abzuspeichern). Besondere Erwähnung verdient die außergewöhnliche Anleitung: Statt der üblichen Fünf-Zeilen-Hintergrundstory enthält sie einen 64-seitigen Roman zur inneren Einstimmung. Jeder, der des Englischen mächtig ist, wird seine wahre Freude an dem schwarz-humorigen Werk haben!

Wer also schon lange nicht mehr auf den Horrortrip gekommen ist, wird mit Weird Dreams bestens bedient. Und sollte er es tatsächlich schaffen, Steve's Höllenfahrt zu überstehen, wird der traumgeplagte auch als geheilt entlassen. Nach seinem seelischen Zustand fragt dabei allerdings niemand... (wh)

Weird Dreams logo

Price: £24.99

Despite the increased power of machines like the Amiga, games like Weird Dreams are still in the minority. The promises held out to gamers of interactive movies and virtual realities have, for the most part of the year that finally saw the Amiga take off, failed to materialise. Instead we have seen a steady stream of 8-bit conversions and arcade licences - not all bad, but hardly the stuff to make you lick your lips in anticipation. Weird Dreams attempts to redress the balance somewhat.

The concept behind Weird Dreams takes gaming away from cod sci-fi and sub Tolkien fantasy and steers it back to the human imagination. In this case it is a journey into the subconscious mind. A lovesick character, the victim of a broken affair, falls desperately ill - so ill that major surgery is the only answer, but as the anesthetic envelops him on the operating table, with the face of the surgical team slowly fading, he dissolves into a nightmare from which there is a good chance he will never awake.

The ensuing game takes the form of several surreal subsections in which you control the pyjama-clad character. To help him escape from the nightmare you have to collect four orbs which are deposited at various stages in the game. You materialise inside a candyfloss machine, which is where your nightmare begins. You need to collect some floss for the next stage of your trip, but if you are not careful you are likely to come to a sticky end on the giant stirrer.

If you managed to make it out of the vat, you are confronted by a large wasp holding one of the orbs. If you cannot get it to put down you will to leg it into the relative safety of the Hall Of Mirrors. From here you can take two exits, through the mirrors Alice style - one which seems to lead to the apparent tranquillity of a country garden, the other to a Dali-esque landscape full of floating fish.

Weird Dreams is definitely very different, but somehow its originators does not carry it through fully. For all the excellent graphics, the bizarre creatures and the superb effects, the subgames offer little more than minor beat 'em ups and one dimensional puzzles. That is not to say that it is an easy game, because nothing could be further from the truth. Weird Dreams is hard, but it is hard for all the wrong reasons. The game is slow - that is not just the way it loads each minor section from disk, or in the way the screen takes an eternity to update or scroll, but in the control of the character. The idea was to give that effect that nightmare have where things often move slowly or your feet won't carry you away from danger quickly enough. As part of the gameplay though, it makes it hard to time your movements. Frustration too readily sinks in.

Despite its obvious difference to most games, I would like to have seen programmer James Hutchby and artist Herman Serrano go further. The dreams are not unpleasant enough. If Dali was an influence as they suggest, they have sanitised him by removing the sex, the disease and the decay. It simply is not disturbing enough.

I do not want to sound as if I hate Weird Dreams, because I don't - it is better than most of the software I have seen this year, and most of all it is original in its concept if not its execution. Graphically it is one of the prettiest games around too, but - one final gripe here - why the hell did we have to wait nearly six months for the game to be ported over from the ST.?

Weird Dreams logo

Electronic Arts/£24.99

Amiga review

Sean: Weird Dreams finally arrives on the Amiga just in time for Christmas and about 50 years after the earlier ST incarnation. The scenario comes in the form of a huge novella, but I personally prefer not to wade through 60 pages of an Iain Banks rip-off before I get down to joystick juggling.

Mr. Angry impression over, let's get down to Weird Dreams. Basically a scrolling arcade adventure with hugely impressive graphics and sounds. Unfortunately, it's the old story of 'hunt the gameplay'. It's the old story of 'hunt the gameplay'. It's not even that there isn't any gameplay there, just that it's put together badly. You can get killed as you reach the end of one of the screens, before it flips onto the next screen. Some of the sections are also extremely difficult and incredibly awkward.

All in all, Weird Dreams comprises of stunning graphics, vivid imagination and very little gameplay. Such is life.

Weird Dreams logo

MicroProse, C64 £9.99 cassette, £14.99 disk; Amiga £24.99

Steve is not a lucky person. Of all the unlucky love matches made through the millennia, Steve's love for fellow worker Emily is most likely the worst. Because, in truth, there aren't many daemons that have been banished to Earth. And Zelloripus, the one possessing Emily, is the most evil daemon there has ever been. Of course Emily might look attractive, but after centuries of tedium in Plymouth her outlook on life is not sunny...

To begin with, Emily gives Steve some 'headache pills' to heighten his senses - so as to make the coming agony even worse. Then she unleashes the eponymous weird dreams which have such an intense, vicious edge they soon put him in hospital for a life-threatening operation...

For Steve to wake up from his terrifying dreams, and survive the operation, he must collect various objects from the multiple, interconnected dreams which haunt him. His quest begins in a candy floss machine, a great metal tub with sticky pink floss whirling around to be gathered up by a stick. Steve must jump up at just the right moment to grab hold of the stick without being flattened by it. (C64 owners cannot be killed here, but it's harder to grab the stick.)

Once lifted out of the tub Steve is deposited outside a fairground, just in time to face a giant wasp carrying a very useful object. Unfortunately the wasp has a lethal sting... Amiga owners can run left into the hall of mirrors where there are five mirrors (two of which are temporarily barred), giving access to the other dream levels. C64 owners however, must play the game in a set order to make multiloading easier. (This is an intelligent use of machine, but frequent death forces so much rewinding and reloading that the cassette version seems almost pointless.)

There are about nine sub-games in all, including a beat 'em-up where you fight rock creatures with a fish, some swordplay with roses and a lethal game of ball with a young girl.

Phil King Well, this is er... weird! I mean, what other game can boast giant wasps, floating fish, or a carnivorous football (my personal favourite)? Some of the very attractive, surrealist graphics are also pretty gruesome; especially when you get shredded by a runaway lawnmower! The gameplay, although innovative, doesn't really live up to the great presentation. But if you're looking for something a bit different, Weird Dreams is it!
Scorelord Weird Dreams has obvious similarities with Space Ace, in that both have some spectacularly imaginative graphics - at the price of heavy disk access and limited gameplay. The sub-games look weird, but as there's only about nine they're very tough to provide some sort of value-for-money. This soon becomes extremely irritating, forcing lots of reloading when you die. Obviously the Amiga game has faster disk access, but it's more frequent (unless you have one megabyte of memory). In short, while the graphics are great (especially on the C64), the gameplay will please only the patient and persistent.