So apparently there is this thing called Dream Chronicles that is pretty popular. You don't need to have played the original games to enjoy this new trilogy, which follows Lyra, a half-human half-fairy girl, whose birthday party is rather rudely interrupted by a mysterious power that transports her to another dimension. (I hate when that happens, don't you?) She discovers that if she ever wants to return home, she'll have to seek out someone called "The Clockmaker"... which would be a lot easier if not for the shadowy presence that seems determined to sabotage her efforts and make sure she remains stranded here forever.
Dream Chronicles: The Book of Air is the first installment in a planned trilogy, and a beautiful point-and-click fantasy game that mixes puzzles and slight hidden-object hunting to create a beautiful adventure series that might not pose too great of a challenge to some players, but is still a captivating experience while it lasts. Please note that currently only the Collector's Edition is available; the standard edition will be released in a few weeks.
Use your mouse to interact with the world by clicking on various items and places. But primarily, The Book of Air is a puzzle game. When you begin, the game offers you the option to play in either casual or challenge mode, and if you want the game to offer the slightest bit of resistance you should probably pick the former. While casual mode offers simpler puzzles and the ability to skip them if you get stuck long enough, which is nice for people who just want to enjoy the game, challenge mode offers slightly harder puzzles, but won't let you skip any. You can't change the difficulty once you've chosen it, so think carefully. To help solve certain puzzles, Lyra will need to use spells, which are unlocked as you collect Dream Pieces scattered around the environment, so keep your eyes peeled for the tiny gems. (There are definitely more than you need, so don't panic if you miss a few.)
Analysis: Having never played the original series, I admit I went into The Book of Air with a bit of trepidation. Phrases like "half-human, half-fairy daughter" are to me the same sort of warning signs as bright orange colouration on a bug might be to a bird, and I expected an overly fluffy tale about princesses and pink dresses. Instead, The Book of Air puts you into a mystery from the get-go, and most of your time is given to trying to work out puzzles in order to proceed. There's a vague The Longest Journey vibe to the world you explore that I liked immediately, and fans of Myst will definitely enjoy the puzzle-centric gameplay. The addition of various spells is a nice touch, but some of them only get used once or twice.
Visually the game is striking, and wandering through it feels appropriately dreamlike. This downside to this is that the whole pace of the game is extremely slow, and not a whole lot happens. It seems like the whole point of this installment is to set the stage for the next; there are a lot of hints and whispers that point out something big on the horizon, but The Book of Air mostly just sends you from place to place solving puzzles. After a while, it starts to feel more like a virtual tour of the world as you fly from place to place, some stranger and more interesting than others.
Part of the reason for this is a tendency to overcomplicate simple directives for the sake of lengthening the game. Imagine if you tried to make yourself a bowl of cereal, but when you went to get the milk the fridge was locked. To unlock it, you needed a combination. But the combination is encoded, so you need to find the decoder. But the decoder is torn into pieces and scattered around the room. So you hunt all the pieces down, assemble them, decode the combination, unlock the fridge, and get your milk... only to find the cupboard that has the cereal is guarded by a swarm of bees that need to be soothed with smoke from a specific piece of wood, which is buried in your backyard, and... well, you get the idea. It can be frustrating in The Book of Air since more often than not these extra steps take such a minuscule amount of effort to complete that there's no real reason for them to be there at all.
If you've been chomping at the bit for another foray into the Dream Chronicles world, you might be disappointed by how quickly the game is over. Of course your speed largely depends on how many puzzles you skip, and how quick you are at solving the ones you don't, but you can probably expect to spend around four hours on it. Try the demo and see if you feel it's a return to form for the series you loved so much, and remember that the standard edition will be available in a few weeks' time.
A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains a bonus locations and gameplay, soundtrack, strategy guide, screen savers, and more. Remember that Big Fish Game Club Members pay only $13.99 for Collector's Editions (or 2 club credits), and collector's editions count 3 card punches of 6 total needed for a free game.