Broken Dreams on PC
There’s a lot of talk these days about the value of a game, and getting your money’s worth. I think it’s a good conversation, but a harder one to have about titles like Broken Dreams, a surreal platformer that boasts a mere $0.99 price tag. Since the ‘value’ of it, both in playing time and in quality, have such a low bar to stand against, it changes the way we might otherwise look at the game.
Broken Dreams is a pretty straightforward type of platformer, for the most part. Players must guide the protagonist (or protagonists, in some cases) towards the end goal. The story focuses on a young man, Jack, and his yearning for the love of his life, a young woman named Michelle. Playing out like a disjointed dream sequence, players guide Jack through strange hand-painted scenes, with some levels allowing control of both characters simultaneously.
The gimmick of Broken Dreams, such as it is, is that Jack can “replay” the memory of his last attempt, starting the level over again as the shadow of himself follows the path laid out by the player’s prior movement. With this mechanic, players can cross otherwise impassible barriers, leap from their own shoulders, and otherwise work through each level’s obstacles in order to proceed.
Broken Dreams tells its story with voice-acted narration, providing a certain atmosphere as each level unfolds. The artistic appearance of each new challenge is probably the game’s highest selling point. While the accompanying text and actual play come off a bit stiff, I can’t deny that the scenes are beautiful, and the tale is one that makes an honest effort at tugging at the heartstrings of the player. This, however, is not without some flaws.
The problem with Broken Dreams’ story is difficult to define. While there are a few levels in which the two characters seem to hold a mutual attraction, the content on either side of this feels, well, a bit like a stalker’s desire to win his target’s affections. Jack seems all too happy to quite literally take control of Michelle in the levels that allow it, and focuses on nothing but finding her and winning her heart on the levels that don’t. Their separation results in some suicidal ideation, which is a pretty typical manipulative tactic in unhealthy relationships. Suffice it to say, this takes quite a bit away from the game’s “romance.”
Questionable love story aside, Broken Dreams doesn’t really offer anything that’s new or innovative. The game is very short, taking maybe an hour of play to complete. The level design is clunky and awkward despite it’s artistic flair and prettiness. While the ‘shadow’ gimmick isn’t terribly implemented, it’s not a new idea, and may actually have been done better in the free online Flash game The Company of Myself.
If you’re a big fan of the puzzle-platformer genre and enjoy titles that focus more on artistry than content, you may find Broken Dreams to be worth your $0.99 over on Steam. Otherwise, you’re likely better of saving that dollar to put towards something else and skipping the stiff story, unresponsive controls, and all-around lacking feel of this strange little adventure.