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October 2021


Platform(s): PlayStation 4
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: SCEI
Developer: Media Molecule
Release Date: Feb. 14, 2020

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PS VR Review - 'Dreams VR'

by Andreas Salmen on Sept. 1, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Dreams is a sandbox game, an endless explorative journey where players can create and share their dreams, and then surf an endless dreamiverse of single assets, games, animation, music and everything in between.

Buy Dreams

It's been roughly six months since Media Molecule and Sony released Dreams on the PS4. The community has been evolving since then, but Media Molecule has not been idle, either. While we're anticipating the promised online multiplayer update, the equally exciting VR update has recently dropped, theoretically expanding the PSVR library manifold. We've gone back to the title to see how much has changed since its launch and if Dreams is turning out to be the killer app for PSVR. Hint: not quite yet.

My fascination with Dreams has not changed since I reviewed the title in February. While it scored well across the board, one potential stumbling block was longevity and community buy-in. Truth be told, the variety of experience in Dreams has only grown since March, but not to a point where most of the individual games could be compared to a full product of any scale. It mirrors the early VR market, since we do find a lot of short and interesting ideas or concepts, but longer and deeper experiences are still a rarity and will likely be for a while.

Dreams' tool set is still easy to use, but it's not capable of magic, so developing the next indie masterpiece will still require a lot of effort and motivation. This isn't something I expect the latest or future updates to change for now, but I'm still optimistic that Dreams will be an interesting library of community game projects by the time the PS5 launches later this year. Who knows? Maybe a second PSVR iteration is not too far behind! The generational leap would ease a few technical limitations of creating more ambitious projects in Dreams and to consistently achieve the high frame rates needed for a smooth VR experience.

That doesn't mean that Dreams VR isn't pretty impressive. Going in with very tame expectations, the extent of the update is mind-boggling. All of Dreams can (in theory) be experienced in VR if you own a PSVR headset. That includes the interface, the editor tools and, most importantly, all existing and new creations. Each creator in Dreams can technically flip a switch to enable VR for their creations right now. That doesn't mean they'll flawlessly work out of the box, but it shows that VR has been part of the Dreams DNA all along, enabling a deep integration in all aspects of the creation tool. That's essentially what makes it so good to experience.

Dreams now enables anyone to mark their creations as either exclusively 2D, VR, or compatible with both. That means you cannot experience everything in VR, but the selection is big enough and growing, so quantity isn't a concern. There isn't a need to constantly swap out the headset depending on what you'd like to play. It will automatically switch to 2D mode, enabling you to play the game on a virtual screen without having to take off the headset. There's also a handy content filter in case you're only interested to view VR games — or none at all.

A big part of the experience involves comfort options, which seem to be decent and thoughtful. The game requires you to pass a quick VR tutorial upon startup, and then it lets you set your VR preferences. There is a comfort mode with blinders and a wealth of other options to combat possible motion sickness. The challenge is that the things you play can vary quite a bit and are often beyond your and Media Molecule's control. There are remedies, such as a frame rate threshold that defines when the VR headset should switch from VR to a 2D viewing mode in case things get choppy. You have some control here, forcing the headset to do so either sooner or only when absolutely necessary if you think you can take the occasional drop.

There will be plenty of games and creations that won't have a smooth frame rate. Thankfully, I didn't encounter any extreme examples, which could be due to running on a PS4 Pro, which seems to look and run a tad better than the base PS4, although I haven't had the chance to test and compare this myself. This is one of the technical limitations on the PS4 that I'd hope to see rectified with the next generation, giving creators much more freedom and power to go wild with their concepts. You also don't have to go into anything blind since Dreams offers a VR rating tool where users can mark a game from beginner-friendly to experienced. If your VR legs are relatively new, sticking to the lower end of the scale is highly recommended.

The most important question is whether Dreams is worth purchasing for its VR features alone, and the answer for me is a clear yes. There's much more room to grow, but similar to its flat version, Dreams VR already features a ton of content that ranges from rubbish (which can still be fun in its own right) to fun ideas and some excellent creations. It's a mixed bag, but it's never boring because there's always something new to see when surfing through Dreams. If anything doesn't sit well, continue to the next one — or try to build a better one.

The selection is extensive, but apart from frame rate, you'll likely run into a few minor annoyances. Not every creator has a PSVR headset, so even if something is compatible, it might not be optimized or tested. As a result, camera angles and positioning can be weird or out of place on occasion, and some racing titles may test the strongest stomachs among us. When it works well, it really does. Some FPS projects are extraordinarily fun to play in VR, and there are plenty of highlights, such as traversing through a human body via a small flying vessel or horror titles — yes, even the P. T. remake. I could spend all day describing individual highlights in the current library, but that would go overboard because there are a lot of things that I appreciate, and it seems that I discover new things every time I boot up Dreams. For me, that discoverability and ease of use, especially in VR, is what makes it an incredibly fun activity in and of itself.

While Media Molecule's own game project, Art's Dream, isn't yet available in VR, Media Molecule has created some VR content to try out. Inside the Box is part game collection and part museum experience in one. Some interactive exhibits play with scale and buttons, showcasing interesting sculpts and effects, while there are also three short gameplay experiences. One is an Astrobot-ish platformer with collectible coins, another is an arcade shooter where we need to destroy boxes, and the third is a puzzle game where we need to guide blocks to the finish line. It's a small showcase, but both the quality and polish show that even in VR, Dreams seems to handle everything very well, so we could potentially look forward to much more content that further leverages the PSVR platform.

The great thing is that even the creation tools allow the headset to be worn. While I'm far from an expert with Dreams' creation tools, I found sculpting and creating environments to be much easier, since I had the ability to freely look around. Much like the regular game, Dreams fully supports both the DualShock 4 and the PlayStation Move controllers, so you have the freedom to create and play however you'd like. The headset isn't great for everything, and all experiences should still be tested without VR turned on, since some things can get seriously out of scale if you do not switch back and forth.

Overall, I found the PSVR support to be a necessary and greatly enhancing feature for Dreams VR. It works great and shows great promise, but with great promise comes great responsibility to actually fulfill what it sets out to do, and while Dreams as a whole isn't quite there yet, I'm hopeful that it will be soon.

Score: 9.0/10

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