Charming graphics and a soothing soundtrack create and inviting experience that follows the story of Poncho and his sidekick Cid who spend their work days the Broccoli company day dreaming about a sweeter world made of chocolate and candy.
Let me start by saying that it is always nice when a new game in an already popular genre tries to actually do something a bit different, and that’s certainly the case with Mr. Dreamer. Instead of the traditional single tap to jump rigmarole, Mr. Dreamer adopts a gravity-flipping mechanic which causes Poncho to travel on the opposite side of the track when the screen is tapped. The goal is to try to get as far (high) as possible, while at the same time, staying as upright as possible, otherwise you will quickly start to deplete your dream meter.
The adorable Poncho is automatically running around the curvy and winding track, picking up pieces of candy as he goes. Should he pick up three of the special star candies, he gets a crazy speed boost that would make the Tasmanian devil or sugar-laden toddler proud. The main obstacle that you’ll encounter is the constant threat of unbalance, for if Poncho (or Cid) are running upside down (even a little), you will start depleting your dream meter and dreamtime will be over and it’s back to work before you know it. Over time your dream meter will replenish itself as you run.
Sometimes I found it to be a little bit difficult to tell if I was running on the track in the safe orientation or not (especially if I was playing with the sound off). There are some subtle visual cues, but it’s not always immediately apparent until you see your dream meter quickly sliding perilously downward. At times the frame-rate felt a bit sluggish, but I think this was on purpose to try to help indicate when you are not right side up and that you should flip Poncho.
There is a steady buildup in difficulty as you progress through the game’s eight worlds, with things getting faster, and the introduction of more loop de loops and bombs which can take out large percentages of your dream meter. I liked the way the game was broken up into the different worlds, as they offer the player intermediary check points of sorts that make you feel like you are making progress.
That being said, there is no real indicator of how far you are progressing through any individual world until you reach the end. There is the usual rolling total distance indicator, which Mr. Dreamer has, but it’s a bit small and banished to the bottom corner of the screen. The trend in recent endless runners is to include some sort of rolling collection of mini goals for the player to attempt to achieve, which act as short-term rewards while they go for the longest distance, Mr. Dreamer world system partially fills this need. However, the worlds can sometimes feel bit long and somewhat repetitive, and honestly a bit monotonous, I’d love to see a larger variety of obstacles and power-ups introduced to keep things fresh.
A word of warning to 3rd gen iPad owners, despite this being listed as a Universal app in the App Store, Mr. Dreamer will NOT work on the latest gen iPad, unless you want to play the game in a small iPhone-sized image in the center of the screen. No 2x mode, no 4x mode. It’s unclear if there are iPad-specific graphical assets, because in the App Store it just shows a single blank image for the iPad screenshots, yet it lists the game as a universal app.
I can easily understand how full retina graphics for the third gen iPad may not yet be supported, but I’d certainly have expected to at least be able to run it in 2x mode using the iPad 2 graphical assets (if they do exist), it just doesn’t seem right to exclude players who have the latest model. Disappointed, I spoke with the guys at Strapped to a Meteor™ regarding this and they are working on it, and to be fair, they do clearly list the supported devices (of which the 3rd gen iPad is notably absent) at the beginning of the app description, but it’s still rather disappointing that 3rd gen iPad support isn’t available at launch.
The other thing that isn’t working yet is Game Center, but this may be more the fault of Apple itself, than the developer. I’ve had the chance to play this game for several weeks before its launch, and I know that the dev has been in constant contact with Apple regarding the issue, with Apple insisting that all would be working fine at launch, so hopefully they can get this sorted soon, since leaderboards are a big draw for many people (myself included) when it comes to endless runners.
Mr. Dreamer does a lot of things right, from the cute graphics to its unique flipping gameplay mechanic. Although there are still some areas that I just feel need a bit more tinkering. I have no doubt that the team at Strapped to a Meteor™ will be improving and expanding the game in the upcoming months, and I can’t wait to see where they take it. It seems like every week several new titles are coming out in this genre, and Mr. Dreamer is certainly one that is worthy of your time.