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One Dreamer Review

Dare to dream

Almost everyone has had a silly little dream from when they were kids, right? Astronauts, movie stars, artisanal dildo makers, or even game developers, they’re all occupations that keep people up at night thinking about how cool it’s going to be when they ‘make it’. Though as children most of us don’t think about the absolute struggle it actually will be to achieve even a crumb of that dream, with game development being perhaps the most demanding. One Dreamer, solely developed by one person over the course of seven years, is a window into the life of game development and the soul-crushing exploration of what it takes to realise one’s dream to achieve success in the industry.

One Dreamer’s plot is a deeply personal tale about a pair of video game developers trying to rekindle their passion after their dreams are snuffed out by financial and emotional struggles. By day Frank does freelance coding, making loot boxes drop at a 0.00001% rate for companies, and by night he works on his dream game with Luna. Each act unfolds with these intense layers as to why their project keeps failing to find its footing. Work-life balance, a violent audience reception and monetary reasons all play a role in Frank and Luna’s journey to launch their dream indie game PROXYlife, a VR metaverse (if you’ll forgive the branding) that acts as a tool for players to connect with one another.

I did not come dressed for a fantasy game

Despite the writing being a little ham-fisted at times, it’s hard not connecting with the overarching themes. The way the narrative implicitly asks what dreams you have and what you’ve sacrificed for them is both saddening and uplifting simultaneously. What’s directly happening within the plot is understandably tragic, steeped in real world problems and exemplifying a lot of the turmoil developers at any level within the industry go through. It hits so close to home that it’s almost hard to play, particularly if you’ve ever experienced burnout like so many in the industry have. However, there are small bitter-sweet moments of catharsis that are reflective of (and introspective for) anyone that may have a silly dream they’ve held onto since childhood. One Dreamer may be about video games and the struggles of development, but it clings to the universal truth of chasing your dreams no matter the adversity.

Helping Frank and Luna achieve their dream involves the side of gaming a lot of consumers rarely want to think about, coding. While you may be thinking that doing semi-realistic coding could be a barrier to entry, take from a guy who basically only knows how to write “boobs” on a calculator, One Dreamer onboards the player so effortlessly it might actually trick you into thinking you didn’t fail out of grade 10 programming.

Gameplay is a subtle twist on point-and-click adventure games, with puzzles that are entirely composed of fixing the code of the many, many objects within PROXYlife. Thankfully things start off with simple binary statements like changing a dog’s existence from ‘true’ to ‘false’. Complexity in puzzles spirals out quickly as you’re soon asked to integrate long sequences of objects to act in accordance with one another, fine-tuning their variables and connecting them with each other. The seemingly unfathomable variety creates some initially intimidating puzzles that have easy solutions if you’re able to grasp the fundamentals. Hell, sometimes you mightn’t understand how you arrived at the solution, the important thing is that ‘it just works’. Interestingly, the gameplay says equally as much as the plot by genuinely shining a light on how games, especially larger games, can become so bug-laden due to an ever-expanding web of criss-crossed code.

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Pinpoint accuracy of tradies doing absolutely nothing on the job

What prevents Frank’s journey from being an emotional battering is the fact that coding is made fun, with One Dreamer being so detailed. There are many inconsequential objects that beg to be interacted with, for you to meddle with their code to the point where you can make a toaster honk like a goose, rename objects and even reprogram mini-games to make them harder or easier. Each object is like a little surprise around every corner; they consistently find new ways of adding moments of levity to a plot that’s aimed directly at your heart. The only issue is that traversing the world can feel slow and awkward at times, especially when changing plains or later in the game when you have large maps on which you have to run to and fro.

I knew my heart was in for a thrashing the moment the first music track played during the intro. From start to finish the music is unreal in the way it evokes such varied tones, from tragic upset through to lofi-hip-hop to code, it’s all just absolutely stellar stuff. Not to mention the art style, which at a first glance is very indie game typical, but is used super effectively to construct some imaginative scenery. Ironically, for a game about fixing code and squashing bugs it was a seamless journey from start to finish, taking roughly six to eight hours.

This is fine

Final Thoughts

One Dreamer is a fractal of a game. The more you consider it, the finer and finer it gets. Speaking plainly, it’s a video game about making a video game that’s a tool for creators to make video games, for which you, the player, are coding. It’s dripping in video game culture, the good, the memetic and the downright horrific. But that’s all on the surface, because beyond the way it makes coding fun and the humorous interactions, you are playing someone’s dream. You always are when you consume any media, this review notwithstanding. These are the final thoughts One Dreamer leaves you on, considering your own dreams and the journey it takes you to achieve them.

Reviewed on PC // Review code supplied by publisher

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One Dreamer Review
Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
One Dreamer offers a unique chance to code someone else's dream, serving as an introspective tale that has you considering your own.
The Good
Undeniably touching, expressive and introspective story
Consistent puzzles throughout, yet increasingly complex
Music slaps from back to front
Goose-chan goes HONK
The Bad
Writing sometimes says a little too much
Traversal is slightly awkward and slow
8
Get Around It
  • F2House
  • F2House
  • PC
  • September 9, 2022

One Dreamer Review
Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
One Dreamer offers a unique chance to code someone else’s dream, serving as an introspective tale that has you considering your own.
The Good
Undeniably touching, expressive and introspective story
Consistent puzzles throughout, yet increasingly complex
Music slaps from back to front
Goose-chan goes HONK
The Bad
Writing sometimes says a little too much
Traversal is slightly awkward and slow
8
Get Around It
Written By Harrison Tabulo

Because Harrison spent his entire education years procrastinating he’s had no choice but to attempt to make a career out of it. His most shameful displays of sweaty power include beating Fable: The Lost Chapters three times in one day and reaching level 99 Fishing in OSRS; both uttering pointless endeavours. You tell him you out Fished or out Fabled him on Twitter @HarrisonTabulo

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