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.|
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.|
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.|
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…|
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