A bunch of television screens flicker before you, erratic and colorful. You try to do something but a masked figure comes from the side to cover your view. Next thing you know, you’re thrust into reality, from the perspective of somebody walking into a room. In an instant, you’re in a false version of the room, real life pictures turning into jpegs, the bed becoming a model of a bed. How do you leave this room? Just interact with anything in it and prepare to be taken deeper into the surreal world.
#21: The World is a Unity game by lsddev. It’s a game I’ve been sitting on for a while, as I’ve been waiting for it to update so that I can get a more proper look at it. It’s available for Windows and Mac users, though this look-over’s based on the Windows experience. The game is heavily inspired by LSD: Dream Emulator, the cult classic PS1 game where you explore dreams. It is also heavily based on the dev’s own dream diary that they kept for many years, reflecting how LSD got its own basis.
You’ll always start out in the bedroom that I described. Approaching an object and left-clicking on it interacts with it, acting as a teleport. While LSD: Dream Emulator seemingly teleported you to random places upon collision with any surface, the objects that act as a transport and the places they bring you to seems to be fixed. The corner of the room where games and figurines are kept, for instance, will always bring you to a mall. That being said, there are different variations on events and the places that you could go to. For example, there’s a church area in the game that, in one instance, had angels floating at the entrance, another instance where the pews and all signs of life had disappeared and there was one visit where the church was rearranged to look like the Cathedral of Shadows from Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne.
A thing that I appreciate about The World is the variety in moods that the game always gives off. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll remember that time I played a bunch of stuff for a fangame jam for Yume Nikki, fellow cult classic dream exploration game. While I thought a lot of them were neat, a majority of them conveyed this general feeling of loneliness with little variety, which had me fatigued; it’s kind of a problem I have with a lot of Yume Nikki fangames, actually. The World however offers a lot to see. Some areas are peaceful dreamlike adventures where you walk through somewhere quiet and desolate, while others have much more going on, such as the mall area with its busy atmosphere created with muzak set against the noise of a crowd as colorful silhouettes of people pass you by. Only a few areas could really be described as nightmarish (that baby…), while a few areas are actually kinda silly, such as one place that straight up plays Vocaloid music. It’s this variety that helps keep the game interesting and engaging to explore, as things never really felt “same-y” to me.
Variety of moods aside, there’s a surprising amount of stuff to see in this game. There’s a lot of worlds to explore and a lot of events to see, a good amount of it being hidden off, especially with regards to the different variants areas can have. To put things into perspective, the game’s page challenges you to look for a cow model dressed up in a Reese’s Puffs texture, which should stick out like a thumb. Either I’m blind or bad at exploring, because I still haven’t found this damn cow after a few hours of playing.
A thing from LSD: Dream Emulator that I don’t think is mentioned enough is that some dream days were dedicated to bizarre cutscenes. The World manages to carry that torch in this game, cutscene sequences occasionally appearing after an area transition. Much of the cutscenes are live-action, which ironically comes off as rather alien compared to the general aesthetics of the game. These cutscenes are somewhat grainy, which still conveys a dreamlike charm to the whole experience. My favorite one is probably the one pictured above, which is a recording of a screen playing a tape where the creator and an accomplice rock the fuck out.
I’m not exactly sure what triggers these cutscenes. Maybe they’re based on how many times you’ve transitioned to different areas. The one I mentioned always triggers upon interacting with a certain object, so maybe some cutscenes have specific conditions to be met. Maybe they’re just random. Regardless, they sure keep you on your toes.
#21: The World is an interesting look at somebody’s dreams, a surreal adventure with lots to see and perhaps more to come. I definitely feel that people that are into LSD: Dream Emulator – or anyone that likes indie exploration games, for that matter – will be delighted to play this game.