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Babies Dream of Dead Worlds

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Rating: 3.8/5 (125 votes)
Comments (23) | Views (8,979)

KyleBabiesDreamdOfDeadWorldsWhat are dreams? Why do we dream? These are questions that have tested our intellect and captured our imagination generation after generation. While no truly definitive answer exists, many believe dreams are a kind of daily maintenance of the memory, clearing out the trash and moving the new memories into long term storage. But if this is the case, what do babies so young they have yet to build memories dream? According to the abstract platformer from Gregory Weir, Babies Dream of Dead Worlds.

In this unique offering, you dive into the dreams of sleeping babies only to find yourself taking on the guise of strange aliens in an even stranger universe. Move your alien about using the [arrow] keys, while [X] is used to jump and [C] can be used to talk to other alien creatures and read signs. The real twist mechanically in the game is that the center of gravity is not at the bottom of the screen (nor, as has become vogue in games lately, the top), but instead runs through the very middle of each level. As a result, you'll also have to familiarize yourself with the slingshot technique, using the [up] and [down] keys to build vertical momentum.

From there, you will find that your forays into this alien dimension gravitate around three different aliens each with their own personal goals. One dreams of being known as the fastest of all time and pushes itself relentlessly through countless runs around the race course. Another is a treasure seeker that scours the world for golden coins refusing to quit until all have been found. Finally there is Mel, an alien obsessed with his research into an anomaly with potentially catastrophic repercussions.

Through the dreams of infants you will explore the lives of each of these aliens, experience their hopes and help them attain their dreams. You will do this despite the encroaching darkness, and the ever growing warnings of a dying world.

Analysis: I'll be up front with you here. Babies Dream of Dead Worlds is what many call an "art game" with a heavy sigh and a rolling of the eye. Like many other so-called art games before it like Passage or Gray, Babies is one of those games you either "get" or you don't. If art games aren't your thing, you may not like Babies Dream of Dead Worlds.

BabiesDreamOfDeadWorldsIn all fairness to the game, though, it does enjoy a mechanic that may make it more accessible to gamers, especially to those appreciative of the platformer genre. The real star of the gameplay here is of course the decision to place the gravitational focal plane in the middle of the level and the resulting reliance upon the slingshot effect. The controls are tight, and the hit detection, though not perfect, is dependable, but the slingshot effect is what really lets you let loose and have fun with this game.

If I had to point to a flaw from a gameplay perspective in Babies, I would have to say that the level design could have been a little bit better. One often gets the sense that there could have been more exploration with the slingshot technique. Meanwhile there are plenty of other instances where it seems as though the challenges are a little too demanding and frustrating. More than a few times you will need to slingshot your alien into tight spaces resulting in numerous attempts that won't frustrate platforming veterans but may stifle others.

But one could argue that the heart of Weir's game lies not in the physical so much as the metaphysical. One can hardly deny the fact that the concept itself is an intriguing one. The sheer idea that maybe we visit entirely different universes during our infancy is enough to set one's imagination on fire. Weir's vision here is even more intriguing, though, for it implies that at birth we share a kind of inherited universal memory. That inherited universal memory brings us to this world that looks on the surface so different from our own. As we soon learn, though, the differences between us are not all that many. Our new alien friends, like us, have ambitions and fears. And they cope with this in the face of a coming apocalypse.

Thematically, I'm reminded curiously enough of When The Bomb Goes Off. In both games we are given candid peeks into the final moments of life. These glimpses are brief but made all the more poignant by their sense of finality. The differences here is that Weir gives the characters knowledge of their impending doom, as well as explores in more depth their thoughts and relationships. The end result is a loosely woven story that has a capacity for both sadness and comfort.

On this front it's difficult to point out flaws in Weir's effort. Like all art games, it's an interpretive work, and as a result successes and failures are the prerogative of the beholder. No doubt those who don't get it are likely to find the whole work to be flawed. My one qualm is a lack of any kind of ending. I don't need a definitive cut scene clobbering me over the head with all of the game's lessons, but I would have appreciated something essentially saying, "Okay, that's all I got, now go discuss among yourselves."

Overall, though, I find Babies Dream of Dead Worlds to be a success. With strong writing and an imaginative universe, Weir uses the bizarre to redirect a powerful lens upon the mundane. Through that lens we are able to see our own capacity for anger and admiration, courage and fear, and what one can only hope is the best of us at the worst of times. For those who find little value in art games, there's a good possibility this will not be among your favorite. But for those who revel in games that attempt to tackle metaphysical questions with big blocky pixels, Babies Dream of Dead Worlds should not be missed.

Note: There is some imagery that could subjectively be seen as offensive by some people. The developer has confirmed, though, that the visual similarities in this game to inappropriate subject matter are entirely coincidental.

Play Babies Dream of Dead Worlds


What an odd game... You should play it before reading my opinion, but...

I found it very disheartening. I played through the center storyline last, which I think is the most revealing of the plot, and I was left with the feeling that everything I had done, all of the little awards for doing random things, the good race times, and the coins I had collected, was completely pointless.

Maybe it's trying to be an analogy for pointless tasks in general? This may be somewhat detrimental to this site, but right now I really don't feel like playing another computer game anytime soon. It's all just so... sad. The little guys running around with their world falling apart around them, while they carry on with menial tasks. You could replace "run a race" and "collect coins" with our world things like "become popular" or "get rich", while our days are not getting any longer. Maybe I'm looking too deeply into a silly game though.


I'm using spoiler tags as well to not influence anyone. Played this when it first came out.

Found the game similar to the above, pointless. I didn't feel the need to do any interpretation at the end, I felt like the game or, as i like to think of it, experiment, didn't provide me with anything. And the gameplay wasn't enjoyable. But those are of course my opinions. :-)

Acidifiers March 10, 2010 5:13 PM

Having a bit of a time here trying to figure out what this game is all about; it's strange and obscure and baffling, but I can't seem to find a purpose of for it. I s'pose I'll play a longer while, then.


I'm surprised by the comments so far. I really enjoyed the game. I thought the mechanics were interesting and fun from a gameplay perspective, and the story was wonderfully bittersweet. Thumbs up!


Can I be the first to ask what exactly the last paragraph of the review refers to? I think I played through the whole game and I might have an exceptionally innocent mind, but...


Haha.. @Birdseed: I'm fairly certain they're referring to the fact that the characters look a bit like genitalia. Other than that, I got nothin'.
Not finished yet, but stuck on a tricky bit.

Acidifiers March 10, 2010 6:15 PM


I'll guess it has something to do with the birds and the bees.

On a different note, I've come to appreciate some chunks of this game. I have found some clever bits in the level design, and if the art seems almost fitting for a baby's dream, the music definitely so. Perhaps one of the baby's will be troubled in life, living with a natural sense that he is being watched, misunderstood, accused, and always wary of the future. Perhaps your thoughts in infancy have a meaning later in life. Perhaps I am rambling. Yet, I could say similar things about the peanut I am eating right now, regarding the symbolic significance of it going through my digestive tract.

At the same time, this "art game" feels like somebody spilled coffee on the couch and told me the stain is artwork. It's probable that I simply lack the ability to understand the intrinsic significance of it, but even if it is art, the average joe won't see anything special about it. It feels so randomly pointless that it may as well be a psychology experiment on how far people will go to find some meaning to this. If so, it got me, because I just spent quite a while playing this xD


Beyond a gold star, is there any point to getting the rest of the coins? It took me a while to get all of them on the first level, and my completionist tendencies weren't motivated enough to get all of the coins on the second and third level.


What I found most affecting, oddly, was the speech given before the third race stage. "Records set today will stay forever."


Did anyone else find that the controls were semi-regularly either stuck or unresponsive?


This one reminds me of Coil - frustrating but at the same time, thought-provoking.

Consider the "ending":

In the very last of "Mel's" scenes, she passes a creature that asks her, to paraphrase, "What do you suppose our babies dream about?" She's being asked this on what might be the last day of their species' life. For those of you who are Christian, consider what Christ said about the end of the world - "They were marrying and having children right up until the Flood came, and so it will be with the return of the Son of Man," to paraphrase. For those of you who are non-Christians or non-religious, consider the movie "Deep Impact." In order to maintain control, the US government keeps things running as much like normal day-to-day life as possible, up to the last moment, and one character has her baby daughter with her in a climatic scene, ready to face the end together.

I think what's stirring about all this is, whatever value we get out of life is what we put into it. The first poster talked about how he felt depressed after playing, because everything the characters do seems pointless in the face of their mass extinction.

On the other hand, consider that these characters have their lives shared and remembered by the dreaming babies. They haven't worked in vain. They haven't raced or collected coins for pointlessness. Their actions had meaning, if only for them, and possibly meaning for something Greater than themselves, given that they are being recalled by another race.

There's a sense of something hopeful in the game. The sense that God, the Universe, Life Itself, whatever you follow, hasn't done away with the creatures yet, no matter what happened to their race. And I rather like that.

That said, I didn't like the coin collection levels, but I enjoyed both the race and the scientist levels.


I am totally confused about what the last paragraph is about.

Btw, in level 4, does it make a difference if I do not collect all the spiky coins with my flying penis or it has no effect on the game whatsoever?


Aw. I thought they looked more like little alien buggies, not...that.

One of the things that really scared the bejeebies outta me was on the last racing level. Void-things everywhere, platforms destroyed, and then a poor little grey bug, SLINGSHOTTING ENDLESSLY across the gravity strip. :(


I thought that:

The entire theme of the game WAS futility They could do nothing about their world ending, so they just chose to embrace it.

Thats my opinion.


I'm having trouble getting one of the coins on the first coin-collecting level... Gah.


...And it seems to be worse in those later levels - I just can't jump high (or low) enough to reach the platforms they're near.

BrahManty March 12, 2010 2:58 PM

I agree with the toughts of most of the others about the menial tasks, but something I also thought of was

that maybe it's referring to video games themselves. All this pointless collecting and record-setting that people feel the need to do in games only lasts until the game - or the world, in this case - ends. And at that point, one may feel like everything they have done is for naught, because it doesn't really change anything when the day is over.

But I also really like the point that Tabs brought up, that maybe everything wasn't done for nothing, and that maybe everything we have done WILL live on in some other way.

Acidifiers March 17, 2010 3:07 AM

What do babies have to do with exercises in futility?

CoolNerd June 22, 2010 8:19 PM

It seems so ....sad those creachures are so much like us. mabye that is the piont. mabye WE will become .......dead a dead earth. that game is depresing. I'm gonna go play 'good things should never end' now search it and you can play too.


I found it on ArmorGames and wondered how it could have such a low rating and still be "popular". I enjoyed the conversations more than anything, and overall it was pretty enjoyable, eerie. Actually playing the game isn't very fun though, and the disconnect between the gameplay and the "plot" didn't do anything for me (except for the racer...that scenario intrigued me the most, I think).

Anonymous July 12, 2010 11:41 PM

the babies... already know... that no matter what goals you set... all seem pointles... the music... the world falling appart... agree with first comment...


They don't look like youknowwhats, they look like colourful flies!

Ninjat126 March 1, 2011 8:19 AM

I loved it. The futility wasn't a drawback, it enhanced the game. Their world ended, and they went on living to the bitter end. The only character that could save anyone tried to, the others just tried to complete their lifelong ambitions before they died. Also, the coins to me symbolised a search for knowledge rather than one for money.


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