Dream Chronicles is a sensual delight, an intellectual challenge, and a very engaging twist on adventure, seek-and-find and puzzle games. It's been compared to Myst and Uru, and whilst it's certainly not as demanding as those mainstream titles, I found Dream Chronicles even more enjoyable.
You play Faye, who has a dream in which Lilith, the Fairy Queen of Dreams casts a sleep spell over the kingdom. When you awaken, you find that your husband has been kidnapped by Lilith and your child is overcome by the sleep spell. You must find your way to Lilith's domain and free your husband to defeat Lilith and lift the spell. To do this, you must solve puzzles that Lilith has left in your way to prevent you from following her. In addition, you can increase your score by collecting Dream Jewels, which are subtly strewn through each scene.
The whole game covers a wide range of game types, including adventure/RPG, jigsaw, seek-and-find, and a final hurdle that looks alarmingly like the graduate aptitude tests I've been doing recently. You are given hints as to how to proceed, and some brief instruction, but you need to work out what is actually required yourself. (I'm not telling—that would ruin it!) There are walkthroughs available on the web, but they are only useful for finding out what has to be done—the locations of the things you have to find change in each game.
As in Mr. Robot, the variety of puzzles is both a strength and a weakness. If you're not a musician, you may find the music puzzle a significant challenge—even knowing what I had to do, I found it very difficult. Puzzles like this can be a real show-stopper. Conversely, those of you who are veteran point-and-click masters may find Dream Chronicles rather easy. I enjoyed most of the puzzles, coped with the ones I didn't enjoy, and only had to refer to a walkthrough once. (I also kept a pen and paper in front of me, and have two envelopes covered in detailed notes!) You can also replay the game to beat your high score, as you are guaranteed to miss a few jewels.
Visually, however, Dream Chronicles is an absolute joy. The artwork is astonishing, even surpassing lovely games like Hidden Expedition: Titanic. Every scene had me marveling at how beautiful the illustration was. Be sure to check out the credits to see some of the conceptual artwork, which is more cartoony than that used in the game, but still visually stunning.
If you enjoy Dream Chronicles, be sure to read our review of the sequel, Dream Chronicles 2: The Eternal Maze.
The story is also interesting—it's probably an indicator of how many women are getting into casual gaming that you are playing a woman who has to save her husband from being ravished by the evil Queen! The dialogue and descriptive text reveal a sense of humour and a real interest in storytelling, which is sadly lacking in many puzzle games. Although many will find the ending unsatisfying, it makes it clear that there must be a sequel, and I for one am really looking forward to it.