We do not deserve Media Molecule. Hands on with Dreams, the dazzling game and toy box of artistic tools, it's immediately clear that my talents are not worthy of its potential. But somehow, building a wonky world for Francis the fox character, and creating my own soundtrack for it like a budget Clint Mansell, none of it mattered. Media Molecule's magic had fired up the part of my brain that made childhood art classes or a new pack of felt tips such a thrill, and I forget about the time ticking away, the EDM thud of the event venue, or even the smells of the hot pretzel bites.
I'd seen plenty of Dreams so far, but this was my first chance to play with it myself, with the endlessly patient studio founder Alex Evans at my side. If you missed our last preview, here's the TLDR on Dreams. There are three worlds, with distinct styles, and each can be played through like a traditional game. These are impressive enough, but like LittleBigPlanet the real witchcraft is in Dreams' create mode, where you can make music, images, movies, games and everything in between. Seriously, I want my eulogy created in Dreams.
The friendly face to navigating Dreams is your imp, which is essentially a cursor sprinkled with Media Molecule fairy dust (all of the options for the way it looks are adorable) and controlled like a laser pointer with your PS4 controller (opens in new tab). Moving my little spider imp, picking up items, whizzing through menus, it was like being in the biggest toy store in the world, but somehow I knew how to effortlessly find my way through it. Navigating, playing and creating in the world of Dreams is so intuitive, it's almost hard to capture it in something as crude as a bunch of sentences. I almost need to make you a Dreams level to explain how great Dreams is.
Animating a platform? Drop in an animation widget, start recording, pick up the platform you want to move with your imp and then... just move it. Stop recording and congratulations, you've recreated one of the founding elements of platformers in about 15 seconds. I wanted to make an area bigger, so I just picked a grassy knoll and pasted a copy of it somewhere else. I picked up a tree and shrank it. I picked up another tree and shrank it, because who doesn't like miniature greenery. Jump back into play mode and I can run around my newly renovated level, and fall off the platform I had made. There's a special satisfaction that comes with falling to your death (or whatever the gentle Media Molecule version of death is) from your own handcrafted platform. My demo wasn't long, so I didn't quite get around to creating my personal video game homage to the French horror film Martyrs, but that's my first project come release day.
If your creative spark died with the unfortunate squishing of your Play Doh dinosaur masterpiece in kindergarten, Dreams will still be a worthwhile purchase. For the price of a single game, you'll get a whole world of different experiences created by people much smarter than you or I, something I got a glimpse of while working my way through a playlist of random levels. One minute I was an eyeball with legs, the next I was watching a huge mouth and some dancing celery. My favorites were a spooky text adventure and a dark, Limbio-esque horror game that made me jump with a Slenderman style ghost flashing up as loud static crackled. For every sausage-fingered imbecile who dismisses the creative aspects of Dreams there'll be a bunch of insanely talented whizzkids that knock up perfect experiences inbetween their homework and dinner. Damn them.
So going hands on with Dreams just confirmed what I already suspected after watching all the demos, videos and interviews my eyes could handle: Media Molecule are the Willy Wonkas of creative gaming, and we're all going to be its delighted Oompa Loompas.
Dreams is on our list of the best new games 2018, why not check out what else will fire up your imagination this year?