It’s taken a while, but after a few months, the third chapter of The Dream Machine is upon us. After getting reacquainted with the controls (not that they’re very complicated, but what few controls there were I’d forgotten), I was soon exploring this wonderful dream world again. The first two chapters impressed with their very atmospheric handmade sets. Can this chapter do the same?

Just a few minutes in, I remembered what most attracted me to this universe. It wasn’t so much the graphics, no matter how attractive they are, but rather the whole idea behind the game. Cockroach Inc have constructed this amazing dream world, where everything seems to be laced with symbology.

The showpiece in this chapter is the premise: Victor finds himself in one of Alicia’s recurring dreams. He’s one of the crew members (all essentially Victor clones) aboard a cruise ship who serve the great captain, Alicia. It’s interesting to see how all the Victors differ from each other, hinting at the different ways in which Alicia thinks of her husband and projects him in her mind (or are they Victor’s own projections?). It’s clever, but subtle enough to work.

If anything, the cruise ship absorbs a bit too much of the limelight. Most of the game takes place there, and while generally quite enjoyable, some of the puzzles make it a bit of a hit and miss experience. Especially some of the earlier quests, which you need to complete to rise through the ranks, can be a bit tedious and seem to serve only to lengthen the game.

Later on things get more interesting however, when you are assigned to do some detective work. It’s pretty fun to uncover the supposed conspiracy aboard by interrogating the various Victors and playing some nasty but entertaining pranks on fellow crew members. I only wish there would have been some more sleuthing involved.

During the course of this investigation, you’ll stumble upon some evidence showing that the game’s makers haven’t just dedicated a lot of time and energy to the graphics, but also to the story. There are several books and documents to be found in the game, all featuring some non-essential information that serves to give the game world more flavour. It’s good to see such an amount of dedication given to all aspects of the game world.

When you’ve concluded your investigation, you’ll open up a can of worms that’s quite nasty. You’ll immediately understand what I’m talking about when you get to that point in the game. That particular turning point is also a rather splendid change in atmosphere. From the sunny and quite pleasant decks of the cruise ship, you suddenly end up in an eerie and unsettling décor. Sets like this (even with its almost disappointingly straightforward puzzle) show what a fabulous range of emotions The Dream Machine scenes can evoke.

It’s a promising conclusion to the third chapter, which the next one will hopefully build on. I wouldn’t mind seeing a bit more of that creepy atmosphere, which works surprisingly well with these clay figures. I also hope the puzzles will be solid across the board, instead of having some good puzzles intermixed with others that were a bit below par, because that’s ultimately the only real weakness of this short but sweet offering.

Jan’s Score: 4 out of 5 starks

Note: The first chapter is free to play on the official website. The other 4 chapters can be purchased there.