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Balthazar’s Dream: What do doggies dreams of, When they take a little doggies snooze?

TLDR Version

Pros

  • Unique platformer and the dream environment really provides great opportunities for creativity
  • Unique mechanics that really tie to specific behaviors that you would think about for a dog
  • Creative storyline that tugs at the heartstrings
  • Challenging puzzles/platforms
  • There was some quirky comedy

Cons

  • No replay-ability
  • The frequent interactive save points become tedious after a while and detract from the flow of the game
  • some game mechanics were clunky and slowed down the game

Full Review

There are so many platformers that have been coming out recently due to the booming indie game industry. So how do you make yourself stand out? Add unique mechanics? Create gorgeous backdrops? Compose beautiful music? Have you play as a dog? Psilocybe Games created Balthazar’s Dream with all these elements in mind. You play the role of Balthazar, a dog that started as a puppy and has grown up alongside his best friend. When something terrible happens to Balthazar’s friend, Balthazar sleeps and protects his friend and enters the dream world and must go through that world to try to solve a mystery that is affecting his best friend from waking up.

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The gameplay has your standard platformer aspects: falling platforms, moving platforms, ropes to climb, swinging ropes, challenging jumps and bosses. The developers have added some unique mechanics to the game that differentiates it from the other platformers. To begin, Balthazar has an energy bar. This bar has two uses: first, when Balthazar is climbs anything the bar acts as a stamina bar and slowly drains, once the bar is empty Balthazar will fall to his demise; second, there are certain enemies (vacuum cleaners, big monsters) that scare Balthazar and when he is in their radius it drains the bar, when the bar is completely drained Balthazar has a quick burst of speed and runs away and loses control. Next, Balthazar sometimes has a tool and what better tool for a dog than a ball. Balthazar uses the ball to get past some tricky spots or fight off enemies and bosses.

The graphics follows the familiarity of pixelated images that is dominant in this day and age. The team did an amazing job with the graphics, the backgrounds and various elements in the scenery by creating detailed and gorgeous imagery which really add to the feel of being in a dream. The monsters and allies models are well done and really bring the pixelated universe of Balthazar’s Dream to life. The music for the game is well composed and accentuates the air of a dreamy state. The compositions came in at the right times to keep me in that sense of a dream state and invested in the adventure that Balthazar was on.

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There were some issues in the game that made it less than perfect. There is a ball that you can use as a weapon and tool to get past some parts of the game, and the controls for the tool are quite clunky. The fear mechanic requires precision timing, because you can use the burst of speed to do big leaps to clear large gaps. But if you are too far from the edge or don’t time the draining of the bar correctly, it can take quite a few attempts to make that jump. The save points are unique and actually humorous the first few times, but after awhile it just becomes a nuisance. The developers have Balthazar urinate on a fire hydrant or other objects to save yourself to the save point, but this requires you actually make physical interactions with the object which come up after every major platforming section (it’s quite frequent). There were some minor glitches, such as platforms falling on my head and affecting my ability to continue on until I restarted the game, when combined with the clunky-ness of some of the mechanics there was just some parts that were utterly annoying and frustrating.

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There are challenging parts to the platforming that can lead to some frustration, but the pacing of it is often detracted by the frequent save points. It leads to gutsy gameplay because you are not afraid of having to go through the whole level again. Psilocybe Games could have broken up the game into segments instead of giant levels with frequent save points and force the player to really plan out and think through the platforming such that there is a risk and reward factor to the game. With the unlimited lives, no load time and frequent close save points I just went willy nilly into the unknown without a worry about what was on the next screen. The bosses could have been tough, but sometimes I just kept dying to get the perfect RNG to kill the boss really fast because I didn’t have that fear of starting over.

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The game is quirky and unique in its delivery of a platform game. It provides entertainment, the music and graphics are gorgeous, and while the flaws do detract from the game, but it doesn’t completely ruin the experience. At $4.99 on Steam it isn’t a bad deal if you are looking for a fun little platformer that provides a some challenge, and if you have an extra $4.99 the soundtrack is a worthwhile pick up. This game is a 7/10.

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