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City of Dreams (full version) vs. Uncommon
City of Dreams (full version) As everyone knows, you can't go wrong with a Barry White cameo.
Download: 1.26 MB
Play Time: 1 hours and 45 minutes assuming you don't get stumped for 30 minutes
Review # 23 for Uncommon As everyone knows, you can't go wrong with a Barry White cameo.
Them's Fightin' Words
    In his later years, a man is known to drift back into those times he cherishes the most. Into his past, that realm of memory. The thing he encounters isn't always the easiest to remember, but it represent a landmark, a turning point, a highly influential point in the man's life.

For Makoto, that point was just before he left his hometown. In this game, you will follow him as he goes back to that realm of memory, as he revisits the events that led to his departure from Bastogne, the City of Dreams.
    There is an exquisite amount of detail put into the maptiles in this game. The level of skill put into this game just made it look very pretty. Again, totally exquisite. There are a few objects that have outlines around them, making them stand out a little from the rest of the map, but otherwise, everything blended together beautifully.

NPCs were pretty good, but the side-views bugged me. The shading and colors were great and all, but something about the eyes put me off and the heads just looked too tall. They just seemed a little off. Perhaps a bit cartoony for the rest of the game, as well.

The backdrop portraits were great. Very well pixelated, very well detailed. I especially liked the texture on Alys' sweater. My only complaint is that they weren't at a standardized size, so it changed around a lot when it switched between them. For instance, Alys' just seemed like it was a bit too small, and Chang's was quite too big.
    This will be Makoto's last day in the city of Bastogne. He's finally leaving, forever. But there's something he must do first, some things he must come to terms with. With his beloved's journal in hand, he goes out into the city one last time.

City of Dreams' story is probably the part that's aided best by the atmosphere. Without the compelling loneliness the game inspires, the story would probably come off as rather flat. But, with it, a thing that might've been a corny drama is instead amplified into a moving tale of a love that almost wasn't. Also, great examples that feeling can be communicated through few lines of dialogue.

Since there is no given order to when each scene takes place, the player will have to hold up his/her end of the deal and put together the story from the pieces the game gives. A great plot device, especially when executed properly. Kudos.
    City of Dreams is an exploration game. That means you will explore maps, find hints, and write them down. Later, you will incorporate these hints into puzzles that will allow you to progress through the game. You won't have to look too hard for the clues. Pretty much anything that looks like a clue, is. There are very few things that aren't ordinary or a clue at the same time, and you'll be able to weed them out easily if you pay attention to the story.

Puzzle design was immaculate. One of the best things about this game is that you'll have to think to figure out how to apply a hint to a puzzle. Some of the solutions seemed a little obscure at first, but it all makes total sense once you figure it out. Well, mostly, at least. The first set of switches on the lower floor of the power plant was a bit too obscure. I solved that one mostly by trial and error. This game did have some of the most well thought-out box-pushing puzzles I've yet seen, though.

Because of the near-obscurity, you may end up getting stumped a few times, but just go back, keep exploring. Look for hints you haven't spotted yet. Think about how they might relate to a certain puzzle.
    None in the traditional sense. This is an exploration game, not an RPG.  
  Map Design
    Though the game is set in Bastogne, there will actually be very little that you'll do in the city itself. Most of the play will go through the Clock Room accessed from one of the paintings in Makoto's house. From there, you'll enter different parts of the city not accessible otherwise. The city proper is mostly for getting the different entrance codes (in the format of times on the clock) for each area, with a few certain exceptions, like the Galla Placida.

Due to its exploratory nature, you'd expect to be able to go through every door in the city. This is, in fact, not the case. Makoto will not enter any door in the city's connecting maps, save one, which I've been informed is a mistake. Honestly, this isn't really a problem. As Makoto states when you try to go through those doors, there is no time to waste. They aren't important. He has something to do, and it doesn't involve exploring every building in the city.

Now, one thing about the city's connecting maps is if you, for instance, find yourself needing to go between the Clock Room and the Galla Placida a few times, they get boring to travel across. It prolly wouldn't suffer from being more compact, but it's not that bad a problem. A bigger problem is that the northern exit from the Floating Gardens is hard to spot.

One refreshing thing about the Map Design is how it not only facilitates the puzzles, but, at times, serves as the hint itself. Very nice.
    Well, like I said, the puzzles may seem a little obscure at first, but you really do have everything you need, so you can't say it's too hard. You just have to think a bit to beat it.  
    Setu Firestorm's Clan-A works always tend to be better than the rest of his stuff. It improved the atmosphere greatly. He was also lucky enough that it was placed well this time, which is great fun for all involved.  
    Atmosphere is brilliant. At the same time nostalgic, a little sad, and incredibly lonely. That part when you're in the apartment, and the people disappear when you approach them? That gave me the loneliest feeling ever.  
Final Blows
    This is a game you should play. Not only because each part is great, but because each part fits into the whole very well. Each part is very well integrated to make a generally well designed game. Clan-A's released another blockbuster.
Orchard-Lafayette doesn't pull any punches with these pixel-portraits.

Orchard-Lafayette doesn't pull any punches with these pixel-portraits.
Final Scores
Graphics: 9.5/10.0
Quite possibly the best pixels I've seen on OHR. ...But the walkabouts still bug me.
Storyline: 8/10.0
If you think memorable characters can only be expressed through mounds of dialogue, you need to play this game.
Gameplay: 9/10.0
Some very nice puzzles. Just be careful not to get stumped.
Music: 8.5/10.0
You're missing out if you can't hear this, guys.
Enjoyment: 9.5/10.0
Powerful pieces with powerful integration. This is the way games are supposed to fit together.
Overall Grade: A
Final Thoughts
    Well-designed and different, possibly one of the best non-humorous games of 2004.  

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