“Art’s Dream,” which was created by Media Molecule to demonstrate the versatility of PlayStation 4 creation tool Dreams, is a two-hour point-and-click adventure, platform puzzler, brawler, side-scrolling shooter, vehicle shooter, and more. All that, plus it’s got four musical numbers.
Early adopters of Dreams have been putting Media Molecule’s robust set of creation tools to outstanding use since it launched in early access in April of 2019. We’ve seen mouth-watering recreations of food, Final Fantasy and Star Wars games, puppet shows, and more. Now that the game is officially launching, Media Molecule’s “Art’s Dream” is here to show amateur creators how it’s done. Or how it could be done when backed by a team of game developers with intimate knowledge of how Dreams works.
“Art’s Dream” tells the story of Art, a stand-up bass player who hasn’t been a very stand-up guy. Art has abandoned his band, run away from his friends, and dug himself a hole. He’s let fear and doubt get inside his head, and the only way to get it out is through his dreams.
Art’s is a dream in three interwoven acts. In one he is himself, sifting through his memories like he’s flipping through a dusty old album collection. These segments are about pointing-and-clicking, using Dream’s fluffy floating pointer to open cases and interact with objects.
It’s during this more personal portion of Art’s journey that he’s plagued by a mustachioed menace with blue skin and a habit of bursting into song. While he sings, bubbles appear that if popped grant players assets to use in their own Dreams creations. I’ll need to play through again to collect them all, as I found the songs and their presentation quite enthralling.
The second phase of Art’s dream is a brawler platformer starring Frances and Eyepatch Foxy, a pair of stuffed animals Art played with as a child. Frances the bear smashes enemies and obstacles with her giant hammer, while Foxy uses projectiles to fell foes and trip switches. Their goal is to rescue Art’s toy dragon, Lancewing, from the clutches of a sinister crow.
The third segment of Art’s dream is more of a puzzle platformer. It stars D-Bug and Ele-D, a pair of toy robots on a mission to deliver a power core to an even larger, more impressive toy robot.
As the two-hour adventure progresses, players swap back and forth between the three segments. One moment they are Art trying to stop a speeding train filled with his friends from crashing. Then they’re Frances and Foxy, smacking down enemies and dodging deadly obstacles in pursuit of the evil crow villain Thornbeak, or D-Bug and Ele-D, working together to open paths through an electronic maze. The three disparate segments come together in a spectacular grand finale, a thrilling chance in which scenery and gameplay styles flow into each other effortlessly. It’s breathtaking.
I’ve been very impressed by the player-made creations I’ve come across in Dreams since its early launch, but “Art’s Dream” is on an entirely new level. It doesn’t feel like a module within a larger program. It feels like an incredibly stylish, beautifully produced independent game all its own. If regular users are able to capture a fraction of the magic Media Molecule manifests in “Art’s Dream,” we’re going to see even more amazing Dreams creations in the years to come.