This top-down adventure game
from 1993 broke new ground in its time, and although it looks pitifully dated now it more than makes up for it with the incredible atmosphere
it still exudes. The graphics
weren't much to look at, but all of the conversations you could hold with people in the game
were sampled on the game's CD
. This was a novelty
for the time and far from being a gimmick
it really helped bring the game and its characters to life.
The story was very involved, and the game even came with a diary of the main character, Ryan. It recounts how he began experiencing vivid nightmares which gradually got so much worse and seemed so real he began to wonder whether they were only dreams after all. Soon he could not sleep properly at all, and Ryan was so caught up in the nightmares and visions he was convinced he was going slowly insane.
The game begins with a dream where Ryan appears in a desert in front of a robed figure who explains everything to him. The dreamweb, Ryan discovers, is the place to which everyone on this earth travels at night. The web hangs in a delicate balance between good and evil, there being seven keepers each entrusted with a node of pure energy from the web, and it is their power which maintains this delicate balance within humanity on earth.
However the forces of darkness have influenced the passage of these energy nodes, and now all seven have been infused into people of evil, upsetting the universal balance and threatening to engulf the earth in chaos and darkness. Ryan must find each of the seven and systematically execute them, thus freeing the energy they contain. Still uncertain as to whether this is real or still some terrible nightmare, the troubled Ryan begins his quest.
The nature of the game earned it a 15 certificate due to the graphic killings and a controversial "sex scene" which was in reality nothing more than a skin-coloured blob of jiggling pixels. By today's standards even the violence and gore were pretty tame, with the blocky graphics unable to convey much detail, and the blood being a curious orange in colour. All this aside, the game's dark atmosphere was really what made it all work. The brooding music, the constant rain when outdoors and the setting of the game during the night time created a mood which set the scene perfectly. Ryan's uncertainty of his own sanity coupled with his growing determination to complete the quest are thoroughly beievable, and the player will soon find themselves drawn to him, even able to identify with him.
Playing the game consisted of solving several puzzles with the overall aim of gaining entrance to wherever the next victim lived or was staying. The puzzles ranged from the blatantly obvious to the infuriatingly obscure, and became harder as the game wore on - the seven keepers were all members of a circle and kept in almost constant contact with one another, so each person was able to take precautions to prevent their own murder before their task was complete.
After each execution, a small ball of energy was released back into the dreamweb and Ryan was then transported to the master keeper, the robed figure who had appeared to him in dream, to receive his next assignment.
This game captured my imagination immediately, and although it took me a nearly a week to beat, it was over and completed all too quick. The originality of the storyline plus the incredibly rich atmosphere provided by the detailed accounts in Ryan's diary and the mood of the game itself made this a classic in its day, and deservedly so; I would recommend it to anyone even now. If there is one game which should be made into a movie, this is it.