Weird Dreams was created by British developer Rainbird Software (now defunct) and launched on the Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, and MS-DOS in 1989.
What’s the first thing you notice about it? Yes, it’s really quite bizarre! And that’s something we really love on this site. So, let us have a gander!
Weird Dreams: The Unusual Platformer
That’s the Commodore 64 version above. We’ll show you a few other versions below, which were more technically advanced.
But! Some backstory here. Literally! There’s a novella to go with Weird Dreams. This is 19 chapters and was written by journalist Rupert Goodwins.
The idea for players was to read the book first (good luck with that) and then player the game, with the story following on from the novella.
That makes us think of the Japan only Otogirisō a little bit, which is a book in video game form. But, whatever! Weird Dreams is something else entirely.
The platformer is heavily cinematic, kind of in the way Another World is—this genre of games was pretty popular on the Amiga around 1990.
The story is about Steve, who’s in love with a colleague called Emily. However, she’s possessed by a daemon (that’s not a typo) called Zellorupus who’s banned from Earth (rightfully so).
The bored Zelloripus-Emily hybrid is bored, so tricks Steve into consuming three pills.
These let Zelloripus (Emily) control Steve’s conscious and so into a weird world of lucid dreams doth we head.
With his dreams so horrifying, Steve visits his psychiatrist. Yet everyone is at a loss for what’s going on. That is until Steve has brain surgery!
But this final effort to stop dreaming… may well have sent him into a forever dream.
Yeah, that’s the plot. For real. Mental, right? This is the video game equivalent of Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams.
Well, it is still a video game. And here’s what the Amiga version looked like.
Graphically superior, then, but still every bit as bizarre.
We must say, though, this effort at a more advanced gaming plot is quite commendable. And quite typical of Amiga games around that type. Again, like Another World.
What happens in the game is you take control of Steve and guide him through dreamy landscapes.
However, Steve drops dead if you make contact with any baddies.
This returns you to the start of the game, in a surgery where surgeons battle to save his life. In other words, you have to start the game over every time you die.
That difficulty level has led to Weird Dreams getting a reputation as being proper tough.
With 15 challenges and seven different death animations, this was pretty advanced for its time. And it nodded to everything as advanced as Salvador Dali’s art to Terry Gilliam’s surreal cartoons in Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
Despite the effort Rainbird Software put into Weird Dreams, it didn’t receive great reviews. Middling, to be precise.
The high difficulty appears to be the main issue, although the game’s immense loading times were also an issue. Plus, there was no save option.
“And the music!?” You squeal! Open your ears, mortal, and listen!
The game’s soundtrack was criticised by many critics as well, but there are some decent numbers in amongst the mix.
However, we feel Weird Dreams shouldn’t be mocked.
As strange as the concept is, and far from perfect in its execution, it at least tried some rather radical ideas with its concept.
And although that wasn’t an entire success, it’s still heartening to see developers in 1989 would dare to try such an advanced idea with a game script.