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Watch a magic show and daydream in "Dream in the Cage"

Before entering “Dream in the Cage”, you may need to be mentally prepared for this.

Compared to a game, it is more like a dream-themed sound and light magic show. It will deceive your eyes with dazzling hat tricks, disrupt and reorganize conventional logic to challenge your thinking ability. Of course, whether you can expose the essence of this magic or not, I believe that after the stage is over, Optillusion Studio, as the “magician”, will bring this “daydreaming” experience, which will definitely receive your applause and admiration.

Since the birth of puzzle games, visual illusion gameplay has always been a very popular theme. This gameplay uses many puzzles created by visual principles such as spatial illusions, geometric splicing, and paradoxical structures, bringing players a very novel experience. “FEZ” and “Monument Valley” are excellent predecessors in this category.

The “Cage Dream” born in 2021 is more like an explorer of the boundaries of this gameplay .

All of its gaming experiences focus on five sides of a cube, each of which is an independent yet mutually influential world. The main gameplay is similar to traditional optical illusion puzzle games, solving puzzles through the splicing and overlapping of different worlds and props. Under the same lens, the wonderful chemical reaction produced by the overlapping of different viewpoints also expands the player’s imagination, truly making people feel the sense of time travel and absurdity in dreams.

But it’s not just an “optical illusion” game, Its puzzle design reminds me of a masterpiece on NDS – “Ghost Tricks” .

In the overall process of the game, we (players) play the role of more like a bystander , we can not take the initiative to touch the world, can interact with the props are very few, this is very close to the experience of dreaming, but through some indirect operation brought about by the impact and butterfly effect, we can also change the world.

For example, the balance and the oil well and the sun seem to be three unrelated things. By splicing the perspective, the balance and the oil well are connected, and the piston just “traps” the sun. The balance rises and the piston falls, and the sun is also brought into the oil well. You can control the rise and fall of the sun to change day and night.

The production team is very good at making jokes about “time and space”. These puzzles often require a brain teaser to solve. For example, driving a toy train requires a yellow battery and a blue battery, but we only have the yellow battery at hand. Changing day and night can make the battery change from (daytime) yellow to (nighttime) blue to solve the puzzle.

In one section, the player needs to launch a rocket.

On the other side, you can find a small boat with a Compass on board. You need to control the boat to change course and position the Compass pointer. When the Compass and the rocket launcher’s pointer overlap, the movement of the Compass can also bring about a change in the rocket reading, allowing it to successfully launch.

There is a puzzle that involves the linkage of three faces on a cube. We need to divert water from reality and pour it into the tactical map. In another reality corresponding to the tactical map, water will also be poured into the Competitive Edge. Tear off the calendar on the wall, and we can also manipulate seasonal changes. In winter, the river will freeze.

And around the theme of “time and space”, in the process of advancing the process, the puzzle of “Dream in the Cage” will also involve three overlapping faces and multiple props interacting back and forth, further increasing the difficulty. The sense of achievement feedback when finally getting the answer after a lot of brainstorming will naturally become stronger and stronger.

For those players who are not good at solving puzzles, there is also good news. It will not deliberately make things difficult for players. The difficulty of the puzzles increases gradually, and not only will it highlight the props needed to advance the plot in the next step.

You can also get unlimited access to the official tips from the production team, including text and video tutorials. It’s difficult to find the difficult points during the clearance process.

However, this also brings up a question – if a puzzle game does not have the difficulty of solving puzzles, what is the point of playing it?

If you have seen the pictures in this article, careful friends should have noticed a detail – although “Dream in a Cage” allows us to focus on the cube in the center of the picture, its background is not entirely dark. As the process progresses, you can see that the photos on the background wall are also increasing.

The following content involves some spoilers, you can also choose whether to continue reading at your discretion.

That’s because behind the optical illusion puzzle gameplay, the production team also tells a story of “father and son” and “people and war”. However, it’s rare to see text in “Dream in the Cage”, and what drives the plot is the silent camera language of the production team and the photos hidden in the corners of each puzzle.

Its story also revolves around the theme of game puzzle “time and space”. For example, most of the time we are immersed in this “dream” as a father, and we need to fulfill our son’s dream in this own dream. I can also spoil a few clips like this.

… …

My son’s childhood dream was to become a researcher in rocket research and development, and he did become a rocket engineer when he grew up. In the plot, we can also manipulate the toy rocket launch device in my son’s childhood room to help him realize his dream and successfully launch a rocket.

… …

In the real timeline, a sudden war destroyed the son’s dream, forcing him to step into this earthly purgatory as a soldier away from his parents. The memories brought by war are often profound and painful – because the headquarters needed it, the army drained a city of water, causing the entire city to be burned down in the next battle and the residents could only watch helplessly – of course, in a beautiful dream, we can pump the water back into the city and rescue it.

… …

The war is finally over, the son survived and retired to return to the ordinary life, the price is quite heavy, he suffered from PTSD. Even drinking in the bar, through the beer in his perspective, the dartboard will become a gun target, the bottles of wine neatly arranged on the counter are grenades, the news of their country’s victory is broadcast on the TV station, but it is still the color screen Mosaic signal in the war for him.

… …

At the end of the story, the father woke up and moved to the new house with his luggage that day. When he arrived at the new house and opened the trunk, the plush bear and toy car that jumped out of the trunk happened to return to the beginning of the first puzzle of the game. You can naturally and smoothly start the second round of the game, fill in the gaps, or like me, put down the mouse and keyboard and quietly think about how much indelible and recurring suffering and torture this war has brought to him and the world.

With many cinematic shots in the transition, this “anti-war film that appeals to family affection” has received a considerable comfort boost.

For example, the previous scene was still in our son’s teenage years. We were still manipulating his toy train. The seaside cabin was also equipped with a telescope for him and his father to observe the stars together. With the flashing of lights on the lighthouse, a fighter jet suddenly crashed on the reef by the sea. The small house and path by the sea have also become dilapidated, which really makes people feel the sudden arrival of war.

After my son joined the new recruit camp, he needs to practice his marksmanship. Players need to solve puzzles to make his gun hit the bullseye. As the level of practice increases, the target on the playground will become smaller and smaller. However, in the end, a humanoid target will come up. We also need to make the gun hit the heart of the humanoid target. You see, there is no positive description of the cruelty of war in the game. The allusions of humanoid and target also imply the cause of my son’s PTSD.

This narrative style, which has a lot of blank space and likes to quickly transition between different timelines, undoubtedly elevates the plot experience of “Dream in the Cage”, just like watching a movie that is neither too long nor too short.

It can be said that indie games have always won with creativity.

It does not require highly impactful visual performance, on the contrary, simple graphics can make players pay more attention to the gameplay and the plot behind the game itself. The encounter between me and “Dream in the Cage” is the same. There are only two developers and they need to cooperate with each other, including pictures, scripts, music, programs and other processes. So after subtracting many unnecessary parts, what it leaves is the most concise backbone.

Even though I was stuck on a few puzzles for a while, it still took me less than two and a half hours to complete the first playthrough. The emotions and thoughts it brought me were not inferior to any COD-style battle level. Whether it was using the puzzles of “time and space” to make a “movie”, or playing to strengths and avoiding weaknesses, telling the most complete story in the fewest words, it can make people marvel at the small yet exquisite “Dream in the Cage”.

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