Free indie horror adventure Somnium is the kind of game Salvador Dali would frame on his wall and Freud would weep with giddiness to play, so you know you're in for a mind melting experience. Play as a boy named Thomas who is too scared to venture outside of his room and thereby does what we all wish we could do every time our alarm goes off. He lays around all day in bed and dreams. But if you had the dreams Thomas has you'd probably never want to lay down again. Each dream is more surreal than the last and the deeper you venture in the dream and the longer you play, the creepier they can become. In the dreams, however, are memories for Thomas to collect and while each dream has four of them, you can only gain one from each. Your choice is take a quick way out to find your assumed safe and peaceful harbor of reality, or dig deeper, treading the darkness to find the memories that really matter.
Somnium starts you in a normal bedroom with a normal looking boy. The first part is easy, just go to bed, and close your eyes and then the true madness begins. Each time you sleep a random dream will be given to you with four memories to find, waking up as soon as you collect one of them. Once you receive eight of the same type (each has a point value of 1-4) you will gain one of the four endings. The memories consist of two types, an obvious item laying around, like a blue mug, or an experience brought on by looking at something in your bizarre travels. They can be hard to spot, and there is no indication of the point value of the item until you pick it up (or go through the short cut scene) and by then it could be too late. Thankfully there is a save option that can be used in and outside of the dreams and though you can't die before you "win" the game the saves are going to be needed if you're attempting to get a specific ending.
While most endings shed light on a story, Somnium's are just as dreamlike as the rest of the game. This, I feel, is better as it leaves much more room for interpretation. Throughout the dreams you can get glimpses of what Thomas is actually going through and why the madness exists but none of the reasons are going to be wrapped up in a pretty little bow and handed to you on a silver platter. It's one you're going to have to piece together yourself. This isn't so much a game about racing to the end to find answers, but keeping your mind open and eyes wide throughout the many dreams. And many dreams there are. After three hours of play I was still visiting new dreams I hadn't seen before and even the dreams I had been in before still had areas I hadn't explored. The dreams start off with a vague uneasiness about them, but the more dreams you have the more chances you have of getting a creepier one. Some of the dreams are so trippy that they feel like a dead end. It can be frustrating to find yourself walking in endless circles, only to have the memory you finally discover be a value of one. This surreal game could take you fifteen minutes to play through, or four to five hours depending on what memories you can find. It's not for everyone either. If you want more of a surreal game with a cut-and-dry storyline, I'd suggest a game like Ib. But if you can put up with the endless madness, Somnium is a mind-bending well polished gem. Though, you may just need to visit a therapist afterwards to get yourself back to reality.
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