Please be warned that despite this game's appearance it is not intended for children. This game deals with themes that some people may find upsetting or triggering.
When a game claims to take inspiration of such massive heavy hitters as Ib and Yume Nikki, to name just a few, you get a little nervous. Those are some big shoes to fill, and accha is gunning for them big time with her free indie adventure game Dreaming Mary. The game opens with a cryptic warning about dreams, and then starts you in a lusciously sweet and painfully pink bedroom. Use the [arrow] keys to move, hold [shift] to run, use [S] to save, and [Z] to interact with things and make choices. Choice, as it happens, is a key part of the game, both in mechanics and in themes. See, Mary loves to dream, and her dreams are typically very happy, innocuous things filled with friends and magic. But is that really any way to spend your life? And how innocent are her dreams, really? You'll need to play the game multiple times to find the truth and all the endings, which is going to require a lot of exploration, determination, and fast feet. Make sure to talk to characters multiple times, since they might have different things to say!
Despite Dreaming Mary's cotton candy pink visuals, which are gorgeous to behold, it quickly becomes apparent there's something just a little... off about everything. Though Mary's friends assure her all is well, the longer you play, the more unsettling themes will begin to crop up. Some of the imagery and tones are more subtle than others, but even the more obvious bits manage to make you uncomfortable, especially when things go suddenly, shockingly pear-shaped. The game's distinctive style and colour palette make other sequences all the more alarming... and yes, that means you should brace yourself for jump scares. Of course, Dreaming Mary isn't perfect. Interacting with people and things often depends on standing in exactly the right spot, which is a problem when finding the other endings depends on searching everywhere, even in places you wouldn't think to find anything. The pace is initially extremely slow, and the simplistic puzzles won't do much to endear players who don't persevere to find the rest of the content.
Even if you stick with it, Dreaming Mary's ending, even the "good" ending, might be a bit too ambiguous for you, and the subject matter is undeniably dark despite the bittersweet notes. Still, it won't take you long to play once you know what you're doing, and Dreaming Mary is still a phenomenal achievement for one person to have made on their own (excluding music by Trass), and deals with some heavy themes in the process. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into all sorts of symbolism, as well as showing versus telling a story, and if you don't mind a tale that might not have a happy ending, Dreaming Mary is a story worth cracking open.
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