Saturday, 22 January 2022

Dare To Dream – In Search Of The Beast

Written by Will Moczarski
Did you miss me? I sure missed blogging.

It’s been a while since I tackled the first episode of Dare To Dream: In A Darkened Room. I navigated Tyler’s dream world, in that case an almost deserted nocturnal city with just a few wacky NPCs to interact with. At the end of the episode, I awoke and had an argument with my best friend Terry whether I had been trespassing in his dream or the other way around. The second episode, In Search Of The Beast, begins at Terry’s fort – right after the end of the first episode.The menu screen is underscored with a tune that sounds like a child-friendly version of the first level of DOOM. I start the game and find myself standing outside Terry’s and my fort.
I’ll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours. I said that.
The fort was apparently built with funds that my father left behind when he died. However, I don’t have enough money for the landscapers, the game tells me, so the inside is kept nicer than the outside. When I enter the fort, I find Terry sitting on his bed. Talking to him confirms that we must have been in each other’s dreams as he also met me in a strange blue field. He tells me about an old “Indian key” that both of us saw in that dream of ours but now it’s right here in his fort. It’s supposed to enable you to enter your own mind. Terry suggests we try it out right away. I decide to explore the room first and it’s full of interesting items. I wrongly presumed that I was playing a teenager back in episode one (and MorpheusKitami rightly called me out on it) and almost did the same thing again when I was looking at this hideaway of stolen highway markers and rock posters. It feels more like a teenager cave than the favourite hangout of a ten-year old to me (just like Bouf’s bar in episode one).

There is a bear rug lying on the floor which I inherited from my grandmother and the broken television set seemingly belongs to my brother. Furthermore, there is a shameless plug for the Epic Megagames platformer Jill Of The Jungle and a Super Sweeney Entertainment System, presumably as a stand-in for an SNES. I cannot interact with any of the items other than looking at them so I take the only new exit downstairs and enter Terry’s underground lab where he does all his “Mad Scientist work”, whatever that may be. The strange key is lying right there on the table, so I pick it up. It makes me very emotional for some reason and feels warm in my hand as if somebody had just touched it.

The descriptions are even a bit better than I remember them from the first episode, and so far I like the game design a lot. Let’s enter our own imagination then, shall we?

I unlock the door with the strange key like Terry suggested. Behind it there’s a weird gate that looks just like the one I had seen in my dream. Terry is egging me on to enter the gate and of course that’s what I do. It seems like the second episode has some Being John Malkovich vibe going on – yes, the film was released six years after the game but it’s the closest comparison I was able to come up with. There must be earlier examples of this kind of plot that I don’t remember right now.

I emerge outside a barn. There’s a tree with a stupid look on his face planted in front of the barn, I can hear some relaxing music and there are a couple of exits and a couple of items to pick up: a stick and some kind of fruit. It smells vaguely of cinnamon but I can’t identify it. Also, there is an ant hill. I try poking it with the stick but that doesn’t work.

Inside the barn there is a cat called Barth and a dog called Jazz. The cat aims a shotgun at the dog’s head while the dog holds a 1-ton weight tied to a rope in the balance above the cat’s head. It’s a deadlock. Jazz doesn’t have a clue for me but Barth tells me I can only leave this place via the NiteMare which is supposed to be well-hidden. Also, Barth is apparently out for revenge because Jazz took a dump in his backyard but Jazz anticipated his coming here with a shotgun and prepared a trap. Now they are both waiting for the other one to make a move. I can steal an empty keg from Jazz’s back because he can’t move. Also, there’s a mouse hole in the wall but all I can do is look at it.

I decide to venture northwest and find myself outside a castle. There are some strange trees with plastic fruit on them but I can’t interact with anything else. So I enter the castle and encounter “an extremely cute girl” there. If she is anything like the cute girl in Cliff Bleszinski’s first game, I’ll just head back outside, thank you. (She was called Laura and turned out to be a horrible monster.) However, I can talk to her and “Lissa” immediately calls me out for dreaming about her – phew, give a ten-year old a break! Lissa shares some useful information with me, too: She is waiting for a hoary old cliché of a plot to unfold (a knight to slay a dragon for her). The dragon is supposed to be inside the NiteMare, and the gate I am looking for is supposed to be somewhere near those strange trees. Did I miss a spot? When I show my key to Lissa she points at the pendant on her necklace because it looks just the same. WE MUST BE MADE FOR EACH OTHER. But wait, wasn’t it Terry who came up with the key? Didn’t I merely borrow it from him?
She lives with a broken man.
Anyway, I leave the castle and pixel-hunt the hell out of that screen but don’t come up with the gate to the NiteMare. Maybe I’ll have to trigger something first. I talk to Lissa once more after having shown her the key and this time she tells me that nobody has dared to go to the mountain to find out who the dragon was yet. He’s at the foot of the mountain? I thought he was inside the NiteMare next to the fake plastic trees (with the fake Chinese rubber plant? and the cracked polystyrene man? Enough of that.) Get your story straight, would you?

I head back to the barn and take the exit to the east which takes me inside the forest of emotion. There are some more trees with crazy faces there but the real attraction lies further to the east. A timber blocks my way and on the left of it there’s a white...penis with eyes? He scowls at a rock with eyes who is...smiling? But see for yourself:
Dare to wake up already, will ya.
To be fair, it is supposed to be a bone. A bone called BoneHead. The other guy is CementHead. And yes, I was poised to meet them. I can only talk to both of them at the same time, and while BoneHead is rather rude, CementHead seems to be a nice guy. Another deadlock, it seems. What should I do here? There is another exit to an overlook from which I can see the NiteMare, apparently. There is a rock but when I try to pick it up or roll it downhill it simply won’t budge. It’s the same kind of stuck as me.

After a lot of pixel-hunting in all of the locations I finally find some magic pills among the rubble beneath BoneHead’s er..feet. This is a major breakthrough. The label is almost unreadable and says
INKING AND OWING ILL. SE ONLY AS IRECTE. MAY BE ZERDOUS TO GNANT OMEN.
Hmm. Do you want to give it a shot? I’ll let you give it a shot. Here’s the answer in rot13:

FUEVAXVAT NAQ TEBJVAT CVYY. HFR BAYL NF QVERPGRQ. ZNL OR UNMREQBHF (fvp) GB CERTANAG JBZRA.

Now that I know of the inspiration for this whole trip into my own mind, I suspect that I will be able to enter some of the hotspots now – like the ant hill or the mousehole. The ant hill is barred by a sturdy trapdoor – I’ll have to come back later. Inside the mousehole I find a thread, a blue and a green marble and some matches but I can pick up neither. The owner is also at home – in the east wing of the mousehole. His name is Boris and he’s a walking Russian stereotype. His left foot is in a cast because Barth the cat bit him although he would never steal the cheese. He only eats fruit. Since he’s unable to leave his mousehole he has come to hate the only fruit he has left which is a strawberry. I try to give him the strange fruit from outside but he doesn’t accept it.

There is another new location, though. I can pop in a pill and visit the bottom of the tree. What’s more, I can pop in another one to become even smaller in order to go spelunking among the roots which is where I can talk to … a purple worm with a massive overbite wearing a fez. I’m serious. Here’s proof:
I don’t even…
Dynx has got a bucket of sap but I can neither steal it nor fill my keg with it. I can ask Dynx about BoneHead and CementHead but his answers are not very useful. Finally, I climb the tree and reach inside its nostril with my stick to recover some tree snot. When someone invented the English language they weren’t anticipating that someone would use it to build sentences like that one. Anyhow, Dynx is very happy about the snot and lets me take his sap. I go back to Boris and try to give him the bucket of sap (which does not really contain sap but the less we know the better, I guess). He ignores me but he somehow looks more friendly this time around, so I try offering some of the items to him again. And this time he gladly takes the fruit! Now I tried to reconstruct what happened here at a later point and it seems that I had made the mistake of touching Boris’s cast before offering him the fruit which makes him angry. If he’s in a good mood, he will accept it and promise to pay you back later.

Back with BoneHead and CementHead I try to offer them the bucket of sap and am a bit surprised to find that Tyler just dumps the bucket over BoneHead. That incapacitates him and I understand now that I had approached the puzzle all wrong. I had thought that I’d have to make one of them start a fight to slip past while they quarrel but that’s apparently not the right thing to do. I also notice that CementHead sometimes opens his mouth to yawn. I try to slip him a pill but it doesn’t work. Still, I must be on the right track with this.

I explore everything yet again and find that I possibly gave up on entering the tree’s mouth too soon. Maybe I need to throw something in there to provoke a reaction? The stick is quite useful but not in the way I thought it would be: it keeps the tree’s mouth open so I can enter safely. Inside there’s an apple core I can’t pick up because I’m too small. Also, there is an empty can. When I examine the can I find a brick that I can take. The “brick” is made of some kind of putty, however. I know of several places I could try this out: CementHead’s mouth? The trap door? The rock that won’t budge? And what do you know, I half expected it to be plastic explosive and it actually blows up the trap door. I can enter the ant hill now!

It’s not the expected breakthrough. I can talk to a guard as well as the ant queen. The guard is called Clifford, just like the game’s author. The ant queen is rather passive-aggressive about my blowing up their front door. There’s also a fruit storage room as well as a small hill of pebbles but I find nothing that piques my interest (or contributes to my progress). It’s only after another fair amount of pixel-hunting that I find that there’s another hotspot just above the mirror: a small nail. And I can pick up the nail, causing the mirror to drop to the floor and shatter into pieces. Behind the mirror, there is a sturdy safe I cannot open or interact with in any meaningful way at this point.

This is where I run out of ideas. I find nothing else to do for about half an hour before I decide to call it quits for now. This is not a request for assistance but if you want to give me a hint, please use rot13 so I can decipher it only if and when I really need to.

Session time: 3 hours, 10 minutes
Total time: 5 hours, 50 minutes

9 comments:

  1. Hi everybody, it's great to be back!

    FYI, I'm not in need of a hint anymore - I had missed two exits, one rather obvious and one rather tricky, so I've got some new things to try out now. Expect another post soon. As I'd already played through episode 2 right after finishing episode 1 (but never got around to blogging about it), I'm mostly wrestling with my memory at this point. It seems my memory wins most of the time (which essentially means that everybody loses) because I hardly remember anything the way it actually plays out. Ah well, serves me right. Looking forward to playing episode 3 which is all fresh and new to me.

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    1. Welcome back, it's great to read another one of your posts!

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    2. Thank you, Vetinari! It's great to be welcomed back like this :-)

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  2. welcome back ! This is one of those games which I know by name, but never played it. Not my kind of game I guess

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    1. Thanks! It's quite an interesting experience and not quite comparable to many other adventures I've played back then.

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  3. Glad to see you're back!
    I remember the most annoying part of this episode being dealing with those pills. Its one of those things that feels like its both bull and brilliant.
    Jazz is maybe a reference to Jazz Jackrabbit.

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    1. Thank you, Morpheus! I see you've been quite busy in the meantime - I'm looking forward to catching up with your reviews soon.

      About the pills: I see what you mean. The mechanic never really became second nature for me. Rather I periodically had to remind myself to look for hotspots that might double as exits for a very small entity. Also, it took me quite a while to figure out that you can shrink twice in some places. I liked the idea a lot but the execution was lost on me time in again.

      Good catch, Jazz Jackrabbit was quite possibly already in development. I don't know who Barth could be, though. I was a little disappointed that their conflict was never resolved; it seemed like a pretty good idea that ultimately went nowhere.

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  4. Glad to get another post! I know it's more adult than the game should be, but had the bone been what you initially thought it was you would have literally been c***blocked. I'll see myself out.

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