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Dream Chronicles: The Book of Air
Dream Chronicles:
The Book of Air
Developer:KatGames
Publisher:PlayFirst, Inc.
Platform:PC
Genre:Casual Adventure
Release Date:July 2010
Article Posted:August 2010
Grade:3.5/5
System Requirements


Are you an avid gamer? Of course you are; silly question. Do you love adventure games? Again, yes; you wouldnít be reading this review if you didnít. So, have you heard of the Dream Chronicles? If you havenít, I can tell you that itís a very popular series of fantasy adventure games with a vociferous cult following.

Whatís it all about?

Try this from the developerís website: 'The epic Dream Chronicles saga continues in PlayFirstís award-winning adventure series. Play as Lyra, Fayeís daughter, who finds herself trapped in a strange dimension on the day before her 18th birthday. Following clues sent by her grandfather, she flies across the realm in search of the Clockmaker who will help her restore time and return home. Solve intriguing puzzles and search for items that will reunite Lyra with family and friends in Dream Chronicles: The Book of Air!'

Concise. Sounds interesting. Select Casual or Challenging mode, press NEW GAME and Lyra is standing on Main Street in her beloved town of Wish. Why beloved? Thereís no back-story, no foreshadowing of events, this is all a bit of a mystery. Other than a brief opening cut scene, there is nothing that indicates how or why Lyra finds herself in this predicament. A box suddenly appears, sent by Lyraís grandfather, and it contains a dream journal. Look inside the journal for guidance when needed. The first puzzle involves rebuilding the statute of the Guardian of Knowledge, a task that isnít overly complicated, and once completed allows Lyra to move into the Schoolroom. Now it starts to make a warped kind of sense; all Lyra has to do is find a map, locate a means of transport and the game is under way. Lyraís grandfather, Tangle, leaves a printed note at each location offering a series of clues. Once you have read the note, it flies across the screen and slots into the dream journal, which records every activity.

There are several main locations to visit; the village of Wish, the Clockmakerís Tower; the Tree House village, Wind Music Island and the Water Collector. Find the airship, repair it, input the co-ordinates and traverse an extensive map. There are two or three puzzle/logic problems to solve at each of the locations. The type of puzzle defines each location; clocks, trees, music and water all play a part and involve numbers, words or sliding blocks. At the Clockmakerís, for instance, you will find several puzzles concerning cogs and gears; fit them together and make everything run smoothly. Solve the puzzles and the Clockmaker advises Lyra to find three keys hidden in the various locations. Once she has the keys, the Time Synchronisation Machine is activated, which is easier said than done, and the adventure is almost complete. Climb Into the airship for the final time and fly back to the village of Wish.

Dream Chronicles: The Book of Air is a highly polished 1st person point-and-click game with a beautifully designed interface and simple control system. Left click on an item and it flies into the inventory, which is located at the bottom of the screen. Inventory items are always visible on screen and are available to manipulate in a variety of different ways. Scattered around most of the screens are dream pieces. Collect a set number of these jewel pieces and five spells will eventually become active, Decipher, Reveal, Transmute, Brilliance and Thunder; without these spells, it is impossible to make any significant progress.

Even in challenging mode, clues are everywhere which makes this a very user-friendly game - and thatís a problem. Itís too user-friendly. I once played a game called Schizm II which required the player to convert a series of numbers to a base 12 system, square the result, and do it with alien instructions - I needed three weeks of therapy when I eventually finished the game. Nobody needs that level of difficulty, but some developers do not want gamers to solve the puzzles, they want them stuck in their game world forever. Unfortunately, the developer of Dream Chronicles has gone in the other direction and made things too easy. Objects are scattered around the screens in full view, nothing is hidden, nothing is ambiguous; everything you need is right there, in your face. And if, for some unfathomable reason, you do happen to miss an object thereís a locate button which will find the object for you. Having said that, when you eventually reach them, most of the puzzles are interesting and add to the overall game play, although I would have liked the screens leading up to the puzzles to have offered more of a challenge. And I would have preferred more game play. From start to finish, The Book of Air takes no more than four hours.

The graphics in this game are stunning. Every location contains a beautifully crafted, detailed drawing which adds to the overall dream-like experience. The airship that takes Lyra around the various locations resembles a Jules Verne/Captain Nemo creation and is a wondrous contraption. If the graphic designers were aiming to provide a cinematic experience, thereís no doubt about it - they succeeded.

The voice acting is acceptable; the only three voices you will hear are Lyraís, her grandfatherís and the clockmakerís. There is an option to turn these voices off and just read the dialogue straight from the screen, although I canít imagine why anybody would want to do that. In fact, if the sound effects really hack you off, you can use the mute button and play in silence, no music, voices or ambient sound. One gamer took it upon himself to write to the gameís music composer to tell him, in no uncertain terms, that he didnít like the music. He received the following reply: 'The music in the Book of Air is comprised of little 15 second stings that swell in and out of the ambience, instead of longer one or two minute songs as in the past 3 iterations of Dream Chronicles. Iím sorry you donít like this new format, but the developer adopted a new style.'

Quite so. Couldnít have put it better myself.

The Book of Air is obviously another chapter in what will eventually be a complete series of adventures. It is possible to play this game to a conclusion of sorts as a standalone adventure, but not knowing what went before in previous chapters weakens the storyline and leaves a lot of loose ends lying around. However, at a budget price of just $6.99, itís worth playing first in challenging mode, complete it, and then go around again in casual mode, which is essentially a cheat mode. You can then skip all the puzzles and just enjoy the wonderful graphics. And if you really like these puzzles, you can keep going back for more because many of them have random solutions which differ every time the game is played. Dream Chronicles: The Book of Air is available for download here.

       


PC System Requirements:
OS: Windowsģ XP/Vista
CPU: 1.2 GHz or faster
RAM: 128 MB
118 MB hard disk space
DirectX 9.0 or higher