Sleeping Beauty Just Woke Up…On the Wrong Side of the Bed
A long time ago, in a land far away, there was a princess named Sophia. Upon her was cast mysterious spell that put her into a deep slumber that lasted for a hundred years. Now, she has finally woken up, only to find herself magically imprisoned in a strange castle inhabited by goblins.
Fortunately, she’s not alone; the Fairy Queen has set out to assist the princess in escaping, and has lent her servant, Mira, to aid Sophia. And some of the goblin residents in the castle also see fit to help her, provided she’s willing to help herself.
The story of Awakening: Dreamless Castle isn’t all that remarkable, really. It borrows from just about every fairy tale cliché, it’s very unclear about what really is going on at the beginning, the plot doesn’t really pick up speed at any point, and is pretty straightforward in general. Heck, it doesn’t even resolve anything, ending on a very noticeable sequel hook. It’s really more of a loose pastiche of fairy tales tied together as an excuse to put you through one puzzle to the next. Really, a whole lot more work could have been done for it.
Not All Beauty Was Asleep
Thankfully, Dreamless Castle is, if nothing else, very easy on the eyes. What may be lacking in the writing is more than made up for in the backgrounds, which are colorful, highly detailed, and carry a whimsical charm about them.
Butterflies flit around a small pond in a garden, a fountain topped with a fairy statue spouts crystalline water, and various dolls and plush animals pile high on the bed of what may belong to a young child. It’s pretty and cute.
Characters, however, could use a bit of work. There’s nothing wrong in how they look, fairies and goblins alike have the same charm as the world they inhabit. It’s just that they’re statuesque in general, standing still in the backgrounds without much in the way of animation. They don’t even really blink.
Music is well done. There is a lovely variety of fantasy tunes that sound every bit as fanciful as the visuals, and is often very soothing to hear. Strangely, it often takes on a solemn and melancholy tone, even while the environment retains its upbeat, whimsical touch, but that doesn’t really get in the way of enjoying the game.
Who Designed This Castle?
If Dreamless Castle is lacking anything, it certainly is not puzzles. It is up to the ramparts in them! Sophia will have to find six golden discs, sift around her closet, clean a mirror, and figure out the correct combination of symbols to open a door…and this is before she even leaves her bedroom!
This goes on for much of the game; nearly screen you enter is chock full of a staggering amount and variety of puzzles to tackle. There are hidden object games, “Simon says” segments, matching sequences, jigsaw puzzles, logical and mathematical riddles and even a fantasy version of Mahjong. There’s really not a whole lot of slowdown in this game, every step of the way, you’re going to be solving one problem after another!
Better yet, Dreamless Castle is well designed to not feel too repetitive. No particular type of puzzle is used consecutively; everything in general is spaced between each other, enough to ensure you don’t feel like you’re doing the same thing over and over again.
Of course, no adventure game worth is worth any salt if the puzzles are overly easy or hard. Thankfully, Dreamless Castle manages to strike a good middle ground. Most puzzles are indeed logically made, though the odd obscure one does pop up every now and then. Relevant clues get recorded in your logbook, so you can always refer to them quickly when their moment of truth arrives.
And just in case things get too hairy for you, your fairy guide, Mira, is always available to give you hints, as is usually standard for the genre. They’re not too obvious, and the recharge time is lengthy, so don’t expect to have her do all the work for you. Likewise, you can skip some puzzles, but only after a set amount of time has already passed. Dreamless Castle wants you to at least try putting some effort in to win.
More than Just an Adventure
In addition to the main story, you can also unlock a minigame called Goblinjong. This is basically the same as traditional Mahjong, only with more European symbols engraved on the tiles. This game appears now and then in the adventure, and is certainly a fun breath of fresh air when you play it, but you can also access it from the title screen and play it standalone. Goblinjong plays like a competent enough digital edition of Mahjong, though it’s sadly single player only. Some modest multiplayer functionality would have been nice.
Regardless, the addition of a separate game that can be accessed at any time may not be huge, but it is a nice touch, and increases the value of the package as a whole.
It’s a Small World
It’s said that “the candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long.” And unfortunately for Dreamless Castle, this certainly applies. Many adventure games can take you about five hours to complete. That’s not a lot of time as it is, but Dreamless Castle, for the tight amount of challenges crammed into it, is even shorter.
Results can vary from person to person, of course, but chances are you can complete it in about two to three hours. And being as the puzzles remain the same every play-through, it’s highly likely you’ll only play the game once.
If you find yourself enjoying Goblinjong, you might get some more longevity out of it. But even a fun minigame is only a temporary distraction unlikely to last in the long term.
In the end, though it may be shorter than average, and its story is most certainly nothing that will stick with you for any length of time, Dreamless Castle is a well-made, well-designed adventure game. It has a charming style to it, a nice variety of challenges and minigames not seen nearly as often in the genre, and is very “thick” in content.
So wake up, and explore the world of Awakening: Dreamless Castle. It’s the start of a promising new series!
Review by David Galvin
Dave Galvin is a freelance writer and avid gamer. Somehow, he managed to find a way to combine the two passions.
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