Dream Chronicles 2

Myst Meets the Hidden Object Game

System Requirements:
Win XP SP2+ or OS X 10.4+/ 800MHz CPU/ 256MB RAM

The somewhat dreary history of casual games goes something like: First there was Bejewelled, then there was Diner Dash, then there was Mystery Case Files. Virtually everything successful in the field is essentially imitative of one of those three: match-three games, time-management games, and hidden object (aka "hunt the pixel") games.

Naturally, we do not cover such jejune and imitative dross; Dream Chronicles is, however, original and interesting enough to be worth a look. It does have a "hunt-the-pixel" aspect (there are "dream pieces" in each location you need to find and click on to assemble a "dream jewel," and doing so gives you a clue to a puzzle), but it's not core to the gameplay.

Like Myst, Dream Chronicles is a strikingly pretty puzzle game. A fair bit of art time (and money) went into creating the backgrounds, and animations like running water and blowing leaves make them feel alive. Each level has a set of puzzles you must solve to traverse to the next level; unlike Myst, these aren't plumbing puzzles, but (for the most part) variations on jigsaw or sliding square puzzles. There's enough variety in the puzzle design, however, that the game remains engaging as you traverse the levels.

Oh, yes, there's also some kind of semi-incomprehensible story, apparently written to appeal to the middle-aged women who are casual gaming's mainstay, some folderol about the queen of whatsis imprisoning your husband and putting your daughter into a coma. And, like all villains, leaving a way for you to escape and free them if only you solve all these puzzles first -- wouldn't be sporting just to lock you up and throw away the key, I suppose. It's mildly interesting that nonsensical fantasy written to appeal to women can be quite as tedious as nonsensical fantasy written to appeal to boys (e.g., "Big butch bad guy is gonna destroy the world, and you have to assemble the seven gizmos of whatsis to defeat him in the final boss battle").

Still, a nicely polished little puzzle game.