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The Illusionist's Dream

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Rating: 3.7/5 (104 votes)
Comments (38) | Views (8,091)
AdamCadamc_theillusionistsdream_screen1.png"Once Upon A Time, there was a great magical performer who entertained crowds with his tricks and illusions..."

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.

Abra cadabra!

Play The Illusionist's Dream


I'm really quite flummoxed on the level with the vines, monkeys, and bunnies...

Patreon Contributor kingjulien86 August 2, 2010 2:52 PM

I played level one. Got to level two and became a frog. I found it very difficult to leap onto every rock, and why can't the frog swim? Seems to be a contradiction to it's very nature.


Unresponsive controls and a half-second ending... not worth that next-to-last level.


You know, Nation of Reincars pulled off the puzzle portion of this MUCH better.

Even if this game has better graphics, the gameplay is just terrible.

OKtomcat August 2, 2010 3:06 PM

Eh, kind of underwhelmed. Interesting idea, could have been executed better.

AdamC incorrectly notes that [A] is used a second time to switch back to human form, while it's actually [S] to transform again. The controls are covered in-game, however, so that's not a big deal.


I agree with BCS. The concept behind the puzzles is a good one but in this instance, the implementation is flawed. The controls are twitchy and not much thinking is required to "solve" the levels. Nation of Reincars on the other hand is much more sophisticated in both controls and the level of thought required to complete the game.

I also can't stand any game that has this type of affected, emo-ish, Color my Dreams-type narrative.


Loading screen stuck on about 98%

[Check here: https://jayisgames.com/support/#flash-stops-loading -Jay]

Username August 2, 2010 5:00 PM

I too am getting stuck at ~98% of load. Have done CTRL+F5 a couple times and the progress bar jogs right up to almost done and then just sits there. Sucks.


ugh, it wasn't all that great for me. I didn't understnad the ending.

Username August 2, 2010 5:20 PM

The ~98% load hang up exists in FF and IE on my puter.


I love the idea of transforming into other animals and having to deal with the food chain. You automatically eat those lower than you and have to avoid those higher than you.

It's also a good idea to make the butterfly, most valuable creature in this game, also the lowest on the food chain.

The game was quite difficult but I managed to beat it under 30 minutes. The message was quite cliche, especially in later levels.

Still love the animal-transformation-food chain concept, very inventive.


I don't feel like troubleshooting the loading bar.


Soon to be a major film starring Johnny Depp...

I'm only on level three and I must have eaten about 15 rabbits and four foxes. Shouldn't I be getting fat?


Meh. Neat idea, lousy control, frustrating repetition, no ending to speak of.


I gave up on the level with the vines. I found a video on youtube that confirmed I had had the right idea but couldn't execute it.

After jumping to the fourth vine, you have to go back and become the bunny. The bunny can jump under that obstacle. (I couldn't manage to get the bunny to successfully jump onto the island things.)

After watching the video to the end, I understood what AdamC meant about going in a strange direction. Eww, I'm glad I didn't play that far. Double ewwww.


The controls were clunky, but I didn't have too much trouble finishing it. Still, hard to give points for originality when Towards the Light was reviewed here just last week.


Clearing my cache has it load from the beginning again, but it stops at the same point.


Well, add me to that long list of lazy laggers. I don't really think it's worth it to clear my cache, though, judging by the comments here. I like a good whiny game as much as anyone else, but I'm a bit platform'd out.

cinder calhoun August 3, 2010 12:46 AM

Neat concept, and underlying story.

Unfortunately, it's not fun to *play* at many parts. The bad controls, and the punishment of having to go back so far (especially in the last level) when you die is a big turnoff.

Username August 3, 2010 2:22 AM

Won't load on my home PC now either, W7 64bit, FF. Everything is current version.


How do I get pass the spirit in the fire level?

Anonymous August 3, 2010 7:33 AM

"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."

Pretty much this, spot-on. Excellent review, and thank you for not actually buying into the melodramatic mood of the game. I'm pleasantly surprised to see a JIG review that doesn't make a 15 minute flash game out to be a life-changing emotional experience.

The only challenge here was in wrestling the controls and repeating the entire level over again if you die. The story itself is pretty typical:

Your love has died. You have a dream where you try to talk to her. She basically tells you to move on without her. In the final level you get a key but there's no more doors- you leap off a cliff and wake up.

I don't mind this sort of story, and I do think the ending was a good idea, but the gameplay (specifically, hit detection) needed to be tightened up. The puzzles were fairly easy to solve, but executing the solution was far more difficult than it should have been. And after a while the actual animal puzzles drop off and it becomes nothing more than a mildly frustrating platformer.

Potential, but it needs better level design and perhaps a more substantial story. The art/sound direction was the best part.

Anonymous August 3, 2010 8:39 AM

To get past the spirits on the fire level:

jump back over the fire and wait for it to kill itself


REALLY liked this game, thought the feeling and idea were excellent. The only down side was the controls were a bit laggy & the frog movement was a bit irritating.


Hmmm...not sure I'd have struggled so much to get past the "vines" leel if I'd known how little was waiting for me. Rather than developing the game's main mechanic is simply abandobned.

Massively underdeveloped, and is it right that such a casually-drawn game should (intermittently) demand such precision from the player?


Nope. Fire level with demons. On the chance that the fire didn't leap up to lick my heels despite being at the height of the character's jump, I would end up trying to draw demons to the flames only to have them stop just short of the fires with no possible way to entice them over except to jump towards them again and die instantly. Every other level was one, two playthroughs, maybe five deaths on the second level with the tunnel between the foxes.

But apparently there's a YouTube video, so as sad as it is not to get the achievement of doing it myself, I can feel my blood boiling in my "fiery heart" or whatever the game called it. Underwhelmed and over-annoyed.


"I would end up trying to draw demons to the flames only to have them stop just short of the fires with no possible way to entice them over except to jump towards them again and die instantly"

That happened to me too, and that's when I quit. There are better games out there, with or without "story" impetus.


I like the game so far, but I really wish that when you died you would come back closer to that spot. I have been stuck on the fire level for a while now and it keeps putting me back at the beginning. Good game otherwise though.


This game has lots of potential, beautiful scenes and music plus a creative new platform.

For now I'm willing to think of this game as a "demo" since it is a bit short and there are still open-ended potential for new levels.

There is not much thinking involved, quiet a relaxing game actually. At first 'dying' that didn't result in a game over had me happy but my frustration was repeating the fire level.

I can forgive the vines level since you really have no choice but jump or fall and repeat but the fire level kept respawning the spirits!

I actually think that the dynamic fire was a bit clever, but the controls made it frustrating instead.

But luckily I found a trick to kill 'em off without jumping back again to have them 'chase' you:

First spirit:

1. When you first jump across the fire to a spirit, it starts chasing you.

2. As soon as it starts moving, jump back over the fire.

3. Calculate the screen. Do you still see the spirit once you've jumped over?

4. Inch a little bit towards the fire, as close as you dare, until you see the spirit.

5. The trick is that it'll move even though you're across the fire, but if it doesn't, jump back over and let it chase you a little more closer to the fire.

6. Repeat the inching back to the fire until it chases you and dies.

7. You have to do a little trial and error here since the controls are sticky.

For the second spirit (the one involving the floating rocks):

1. Jump across the fire and let the spirit chase you.

2. Once you're confident its position will let it chase you even though you're across the fire, jump back to the ground.

3. Inch towards the fire again, it'll chase you and die.

!BUG!: Doing this method sometimes makes the game respawn the second spirit. Just kill it again.

For the third spirit:

1. Once you jump on the floating rock with the fire, inch towards the fire and the spirit will start chasing you without having to jump over the fire.

2. If that doesn't work, just do the method then.

Anonymous August 8, 2010 1:29 PM

Well, here is yet another game that has that "Color your Dreams" vibe to it. It also has an almost similar story/gameplay to "The Company of Myself".

As in, you die. A lot. With barely any checkpoints. Get ready for that.

This is entirely bias so here it goes: I am frustrated with this game in the fire level, which, I think, is the second to last ( I haven't finished the game yet). I don't feel that something as simple as "Get to point A to B, then from B to C" should be this difficult to do... Unfortunately, the fire has a rather wide range of motion, so even if you actually visibly clear the flames, you "poof" back to the start.

The controls are definitely sticky; it took me a longer time than I thought to get through the poison vein level.

The art/animation and music/sound effects are acually quite good and calming. It almost makes me feel better about the stickiness. Almost. ;)

But all in all,a good game for a calming experience. I admire the poeticness, although the "puzzle" of the game (the "game" itself) needs to be reworked a little, preferably to actually have a mind working puzzle. It's a nice, short game that you play for the story, not exactly any gameplay experience (like, umm, "The Majesty of Colors", I think it was called). So in essence, you play it because you play it. Have fun!

P.S.- For those of you stuck on downloading: Try another site or check you online security settings. This probably has a huge "temporary download" package of information, kinda like "The Impossible Quiz". ;) Hope you can play it!


Actually it's not that hard I am 13 and I just got done playing the game in under 20 minutes. I Is that easy.


Ah-HA, it works now. Finally. Well, off I go...down the rabbit hole!


I disagree about the lack of checkpoints. Whenever I've died, I've re-spawned at the closest safe location to where I was when I died, and if I'd already gotten the key, I still had the key.

That said, I'm having trouble with level ... hm, didn't keep count. 3 or 4. The one where

you need to become small in order to crawl under a big column, meanwhile avoiding foxes.

I've gotten the key, and it seems that the only way to get to the door is by

becoming a butterfly


how do I fly under the column while avoiding foxes and frogs?


Meh, never mind. Just picky timing.


Just finished this but with spoiler help. Found it dull and wish the animal premise had continued.

Gabriella March 14, 2011 3:50 PM

Could someone PLEASE give me a walkthrough?
I'm stuck on the monkey & bunny part. I can't do it!!
Someone please give me a walkthrough on the whole game!!!!!


Ugh. Lousy.
I played this game because someone recommended it to me for its "beautiful story". Hardly. There was far too much frustration (I'm looking at you, poison level) and irritating puzzle simplicity to even focus on the barely-existant plot, and even that seemed obvious and cliched.
I suppose having just come from playing The Company Of Myself the similarities would naturally make The Illusionist's Dream seem like an inferior competitor, but it was just so predictable, with no emotion allowing me to relate to the protagonist.
And I can't believe nobody has mentioned the explosion sound effect EVERY SINGLE TIME you change form, or die and restart a level. There I was, innocently trying to relax, listening to the tranquil, soothing music, when BOOM, I get a stupidly cartoon-style explosion sound shattering my eardrums.
Then I'm onto the poison/fire level, with the metaphor practically hurling itself down your throat, screaming "I'm a tortured soul, there's raging fire in my heart/poison seeping through my veins!" and endless explosions all the while, because what little puzzle element there was is now gone and it's just a frustrating platformer.
Sorry to rant, but it had so much potential. If only they'd executed it properly, it could have been incredible.


Terrible ending. I played through the game just to figure out how the storyline would be resolved, so disappointed!


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