MICROPROSE has at last got around to releasing a Rainbird game that I first saw in back in June 1988. Weird Dreams is a collection of strange arcade games arranged to form an ongoing dream.
As we all know, dreams being what they are, the contents of them can jump from topic to topic or scene to scene in an instant, which is as good an excuse for sticking all these quite different games together as any. If anything this is the subconscious version of The Games: Summer Edition.
Life in the dreamscape of Serrano, Hutchby and King, the co-designers, begins on the operating table - and it frequently ends there, before you, the patient, tumble into the first dream, a candyfloss machine.
Beware the giant floss stick which penetrtes the sanctity of the tooth decay special. The candy whirls around and around, with the stick harvesting it relentlessly. The object here is to collect pieces of candy by standing up and letting them stick to you, and then jumping on to the stick the next time it comes around.
Needless to say this isn't easy, as it is necessary to spend most of the time crouched down to avoid being brained. As in all the worst dreams, your character stands up with all the speed of a sloth covered in treacle.
Once out of the candyfloss machine you find yourself at a fun-fair, one that is populated by a very large wasp. This is where the candy stuck to your chequered pyjamas comes in handy. Escaping from there to the hall of mirrors is easy, but now you have three choices of dreams to pursue in your bid to finish the game and wake up.
There are actually five mirrors but two of them are boarded up until you complete the other three. So, the choice is left, right or straight ahead?
Going straight on leads to another encounter with the candy-floss machine, while the other two choices lead to experiences in a desert and an English country garden, along with the music for it.
The desert is the strangest one. Overhead flies a flock of fish, one of which you must leap up and grab. Off you then go, and watch out for the amazing scrolling. In my dreams games always have ultra fast, super smooth parallax scrolling with planes of different resolutions gliding by. Unfortunately those sort of games tend to only exist in my dreams.
This game has amazing pause-o-flip scrolling. Reach the end of the screen and there's a pause for you to recover your breath, and then the next screen is scrolled totally in. Very impressive, I'm sure.
Anyway, you're plodding through this desert in your pyjamas waving a cod around when up pops the most ugly thing you've ever seen, unless you've been to Brentwood and seen the people working on this magazine. It's all springy legs, neck and head.
Whatever you think it is, whack it one with your cod before it springs at you. Of course there are lots of these things awaiting, but that's dreamland for you.
The garden scene has you picking up a stick and attempting t force your way past a bed of vicious red roses, which isn't too hard providing you stick at long range and thrust at them.
Weird Dreams may be a good deal more subtle than the Nightmare on Elm Street series of splatter fests but there is quite a nasty surprise waiting if you take too long getting past the roses. Up from behind comes a very large lawnmower.
Past the roses and there's a sweet little girl waiting who wants to play ball. Unfortunately, she also has a large knife. Get too close to the little urchin and...
A lot of Weird Dreams is quite unpleasant, but some things seem to have been cut out since I last saw the program. The screams when you get killed have gone, although they are still in the ST version apparently, and so has the end sequence when you lose all your lives and the surgeons leer horrible and lunge at you with a very large knife.
The music is disappointing on both the title page and during the game. A talented musician could have had a field day with the theme of frightening nightmares, but what we've end up with lacks any feeling of menace at all.
The same could be said of the game itself. There are plenty of god ideas and classical dream elements in there, but it is all let down by dull graphics and bad programming.