The Dream Machine

Game review by
David Wolinsky, Common Sense Media
The Dream Machine Game Poster Image
Spooky adventure take on dreams but has technical issues.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Although appearances, motives may appear sinister, reminds you to hear people out before rendering judgment.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Protagonist aspires to be a good tenant, husband, citizen amid some very extreme drama, trauma around him. 

Ease of Play

Some puzzles are much, much harder than others; sometimes game is buggy.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that THE DREAM MACHINE is a downloadable point-and-click adventure game that's a throwback to older games in the genre. This means you control a protagonist by clicking around the landscape, having him tell you about what he sees, and then picking up items and realizing how you need to repurpose them in different contexts around the environment to progress through the story. It's a story-driven game, which means there's a lot of talking and listening to other people in the world, and what you should be doing next is not always spelled out for you. Given that, only patient and curious players need apply.

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What's it about?

THE DREAM MACHINE is an episodic adventure. In six chapters -- only five are currently finished and available for purchase -- this game follows Victor Neff, a newlywed in a new apartment who discovers that his landlord has installed a camera in his bedroom. When you confront him, you learn he isn't spying on you but rather your dreams through the titular creation. What follows is a journey into the landlord's mind, your new wife's mind, and other people's minds to try to keep the dream world and our world two distinct entities.

Is it any good?

This will be a tough sell for most younger kids and likely not appropriate anyway, but older teens and adults will likely appreciate the foreboding pace and patient meticulousness this game requires. Unlike other adventure games, this game doesn't bother with lots of screens and lots of items for you to scoop up, collect, and puzzle over. Instead, it goes the opposite way, with only a handful of places per chapter and only a few items. Then it's exceedingly coy -- in a good way -- about letting you discover what you must do. Without giving much away (and this really isn't, since much of the game takes place in people's dreams): A neat discovery comes in a later chapter when you realize the items you've been using the entire chapter also double as parts of internal organs you need to process and understand human communication. It's a nice little epiphany that the game does not beat you over the head with; rather it leaves you to drag yourself to realize it and then be excited -- as most great adventure games do.

That said, there are some hiccups, though all are largely technical and minor. The game freezes frequently without a real pattern to it. Sometimes the character gets stuck in certain spots in the world without a real reason, with it being very difficult to get him out of an elevator or to trigger the call buttons in the elevator to appear on-screen. Other times, there are no problems at all, though these things crop up with such inconsistency that it bears mentioning here. It shouldn't be a deterrent but something to definitely be aware of. It's not the most conventional adventure game, but The Dream Machine will definitely keep the attention of puzzle- and mystery-minded players looking to unravel its secrets.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about privacy. What you would do if you found out someone was invading your privacy because they had a very good reason to do so?

  • How long does it take you to judge someone who's new in your life?

  • What do you think your dreams mean? Do you tell people about your dreams?

Game details

  • Platforms: Mac, Windows
  • Price: $3.99-5.99 per episode
  • Pricing structure: Paid (The game is $3.99-$5.99 an episode, or $19.95 for the full game.)
  • Available online? Not available online
  • Developer: The Sleeping Machine
  • Release date: May 11, 2012
  • Genre: Puzzle
  • Topics: Magic and Fantasy
  • ESRB rating: NR for No Descriptions
  • Last updated: March 8, 2019

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