Online, May 2020
I really don’t know how to feel about Dream Gallery. It wilfully ignores conventions that I expect and rely on in escape rooms, from single use of items to use of outside knowledge, through various smaller things that are hard to describe without spoilers. It has relatively few puzzles, even for a 40 minute game.
It uses a public booking system, unusual for a European game. (Although they initially used a public booking system, they’ve sensibly now shifted to a private booking system.) And a great deal of the experience turns on a particular idea that may work for you or may just fall flat.
The story concerns a painter seeking inspiration in dreams. You might notice how very different that is to the usual flash! bang! peril and adventure of most escape room plots. The game starts and ends with video sequences, and I believe the whole game is designed to give a slightly dream-like atmosphere. This includes the main character, who plays a larger role than simply being your hands and eyes. He gives an impression of being not completely focused, which is entirely deliberate and part of what the game is trying to do, but which may not go down so well with impatient players – particularly since there also seemed to be noticeable lag on the connection.
This takes place in a simple, plain game area, decorated in white with a few objects to investigate; also with a corner cordoned off for no particular reason I could ascertain. You additionally have a quite slick system for entering answers in a browser tab – an unusual choice, since normally in a remote game you’d instruct your avatar what codes to enter for locks physically in the game. I appreciated being able to actually enter answers myself (note that all players need to do so individually, and therefore need to take care not to get left behind), and it helped with the effect that I think they were aiming for: of the livestream being not a space we were trying to solve directly, but more of an interactive window onto a dreamed reality from which we could find inspiration.
I should note also that I hit some technical issues that meant I missed a big section of the intro video, and so didn’t get the proper setup for the game; which, with a game so heavily based on creating a specific atmosphere, was a significant disadvantage.
I’m giving it a middling rating. Your experience will not be middling. You will either ‘get’ it and enjoy what they’re trying to do – in which case you’ll likely find it an unusual, distinctive art piece of a game – or you’ll not like it at all, and will probably consider it a confusing short game with flawed puzzles.
I suspect enthusiasts in particular will have diverging reactions to it. Experienced players tend to rely more on the conventions that Dream Gallery breaks, and so may harshly judge a game that ignores them. On the other hand, having played many other games may help you appreciate it for trying something so very different. Either way, having some idea of the way the game works up front may help in enjoying it on its own terms. It’s a concept piece as much as a game – if this description has intrigued you rather than put you off, then give it a go, and approach it without expecting it to play like other remote play escape rooms.
Disclaimer: We played this game on a complementary basis. This does not influence the review or rating.