All good stories start with that great introduction, don't they? It just whisks you away to lands of fantasy and magic. The Illusionist's Dream from Seething Swarm is a short puzzle platformer that puts you in the shoes and top hat of the titular Illusionist. The unnamed protagonist is lost in a dream after his one true love dies and he can't quite find his way out (what's a good fairy tale without love and loss?). Fortunately, the dream world makes his magic a little more potent. Press [A] to pick up a nearby animal and plop it into your hat, transforming the Illusionist into the animal's form. Use different forms to find the key in each level and reach the door. It's not all bunnies and butterflies, though, and you'll have to be careful to avoid foxes and frogs in certain forms. You never really die though, as falling into a pit or getting eaten by another animal will simply transport your human form back to an earlier point in the level. You can transform back to human form at any time by pressing [S], because who wants to be stuck as a frog for eternity?
The Illusionist's Dream is attractive and atmospheric, if a little short. The central mechanic certainly sparked my imagination. It's all about tranquility, and the art direction lifts the game above mediocre distraction into the realm of "serious potential." Each animal form feels different, and the much-appreciated diversity combines well with a mellow atmosphere. However, it falls short of being a great game due to its brevity and some issues with hit detection. The last couple of levels take the game in a strange (and rather unnecessary) direction, sacrificing what were some really good ideas for metaphorical representations of the tortured soul. One level involving fire comes to mind...but I'm a sucker for brooding little indie games, so I'm willing to look past the game's shortcomings and enjoy a short journey into one magician's dream.