So, hardly revolutionary stuff, but Fragile Dreams is all about the story and the atmosphere, and both are so accomplished that the relative mundanity of the tasks is forgotten. The decaying locations you wander through are spooky and beautifully realised, bathed in flickering shadows and fractured beams of light, and full of everyday items seemingly discarded in a hurry as humanity upped and left on the spur of the moment. One level sees you in a theme park, where the rides are rusting and the flora has begun to take over. Despite the presence of a few wild dogs and another lad who may or may not be a vampire, the sense of solitude is all-pervading.
The humans might have toddled off en masse but the spirit world is well represented here, and they’re not very happy about sharing the same space as you. Things that look like jellyfish with faces regularly appear and try to munch you, and we’ve also encountered spectral pairs of legs that scamper about and give you a shoeing. Creepy. And what’s creepier is the giggling and moaning that comes from the remote’s speaker when you get near them. (In fact, there’s a fair amount of remote speaker use, from the barking of dogs to crackling voices to crickets chirping in the hedgerows. It’s really nicely implemented and adds further tingles to the atmosphere.)
When you encounter these beasties there are two options: stand and fight or leg it. You won’t be pursued far if you choose to flee, but you will miss out on gaining XP and hence won’t level up. It’s better to be brave, as levelling up affords you more hit points with which to face graver dangers further down the line. Unlike in other-end-of-the-world games, your weapons are pretty shonky. Not for you the Gatling laser cannon or the mini-nuke. Nope, you get sticks and butterfly nets that break after too much use.
Combat’s fairly limited, with only a handful of combos and powerups available, but it’s effective enough. That said, it can be a bit clumsy when you’re scrapping in confined spaces such as shop store rooms. We’ve not found it too challenging so far, and the proliferation of health-restoring fires and the option to simply run away from enemies means you shouldn’t die too often, if at all.
Technical problems with the early version of the code prevented us from getting as far through the game as we would have liked, but what we have seen is thoroughly charming and has left us desperate to uncover the mystery of where on Earth everyone else has got to. It may be the end of the world, but we feel fine.
Feb 3, 2010