Today we’re looking at two new releases from the Iberian peninsula: Into a Dream and Five Covens, both of which were just released on the PlayStation 4.
Into a Dream
Into a Dream was developed by Filipe F. Thomaz from Portugal, and after a Steam release last summer it’s now available for consoles as well. A narrative-driven adventure that plays out as a side-scrolling platformer, it approaches the topic of mental health by delving into someone’s subconscious thoughts. And while the execution has some rough edges, the premise and presentation make this an interesting journey.
Using shadows and light effectively in a striking visual style, you use John to go into a man called Luke’s thoughts to deal with his depression. The shadowplay against sometimes colorful backdrops very effectively paints a surreal and dreamlike atmosphere as you traverse a story in which you jump back and forth through time to give Luke perspective and let him know things aren’t as bad as they might seem.
Most of the gameplay revolves around simple tasks that “fix” a scene or memory which then allows you to continue, and there can be minor puzzle and platforming elements included in doing so as well. The platforming can feel a little awkward, almost like it was an afterthought, because the controls feel overly floaty and not very responsive, to the point where John feels clumsy at times.
Into a Dream fares better when it sticks to its narrative and psychological themes, though the delivery of the narrative can be hit and miss where the quality of the voiceover work and translations are concerned. Perhaps this is also why parts of the narrative feel lacking in how impactful they come across to the player, or maybe it’s just an issue that was there to begin with.
The visual style and strong themes kept me pushing forward though, and this four hour long journey – although flawed – was ultimately worth it. One part that definitely added to my enjoyment and kept me engaged was the beautiful soundtrack, which features beautiful compositions delivered though high quality recordings.
The Five Covens
Developed and published by rBorn from Spain, The Five Covens is the end result of a project that was picked up through the PlayStation Talents initiative, which earlier game us pleasant surprises like Windfolk and A Tale of Paper. As you’d expect this is another PlayStation exclusive, and it came out earlier this month.
A narrative-driven 3D puzzle platformer, Five Covens takes place in a world of witches and sorcerers. You’re Brenda, and you’re part of one of the five powerful families, on your way to becoming a witch yourself. Your plans come to a halt when you’re kidnapped by evil overlord Deon Kenot though, and you find yourself trapped in his castle. It’s your job to help Brenda escape and defeat Kenot in a mix of platforming and puzzles.
The large chunk of the delivery of the story is later told through scrolls you can pick up and read, which betrays Five Covens’ humble origins as a budget/student production. There’s a nice low poly/cell-shaded cartoon quality to the visuals that evokes distant memories of Spyro and Zelda, but obviously things are a bit more rough around the edges here.
This is especially true for the gameplay, which is hurt by rather clunky controls and ditto camera work. This often results in Brenda taking damage that doesn’t feel like it should have happened, and it doesn’t help that she’s extremely prone to damage from falling – even when it’s from a platform that isn’t very high up.
Over the course of eight levels, new mechanics are gradually introduced – such as the ability to momentarily freeze time. You’re an aspiring witch, so these abilities make sense both narratively and in terms of the gameplay, which is otherwise relatively generic in nature. It’s family-friendly entertainment, but with other games that fill this void much better Five Covens is a tough game to recommend, even at its budget price. If it were just a bit more polished in terms of the controls and camera work, this could have been a fun little indie contender.