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Freeware Review - Every Day the Same Dream

Every Day the Same Dream is a quick, minimalist game by Paolo Pedercini of Molle Industria.  In it, you play through a handful of days in a man’s mundane life.  Whether these days are all exactly the same (a la Groundhog Day) or it just feels like it is up to you.  You get up, get dressed, say hi to the wife, get stuck in traffic, get yelled at by your boss, get to your cubicle, and repeat.  The whole idea of breaking out of your corporate rat race and doing something different with your life is now well-worn territory, explored a million times in books and film.  However, while the message of the game feels a little played now, the gameplay and atmosphere still manage to be enjoyable and interesting.

In almost everything I’ve read about this game, people who played it appreciated the “message” of the game, but thought the gameplay was lacking.  In my case, the experience was reversed.  Even though the gameplay is simple, I found it really engaging.  You basically play through your first day pretty straight, but a woman on your elevator says “five steps to a new life” (or something to that effect), which you eventually realize means your goal is to try five new things in your day.  Opportunities to branch out are limited, so you have to be on the lookout for them, and seize every chance you get.

So, you may still go to work, but now in your underwear.  Or, you may skip work altogether, and get into some shenanigans with a homeless guy outside your building.  Or maybe you’ll stop traffic while you get out and pet a cow.  These may seem like small things, but when your options are so constrained, any sized rebellion can seem large and important.  In practice, this works a little like a point-and-click adventure game, since you are basically just moving left or right and interacting with the space bar.  But it never felt quite like that.

Helping your actions feel important are an excellent art style and a great soundtrack.  The art is almost entirely black and white (mostly grey, though), with only a few splashes of color.  This certainly goes along with the worldview of the game.  All objects and backgrounds are smooth and clean with a real art deco look going on.  The animations are simple, but they get the job done.  The soundtrack basically consists of one track by musician Jesse Stiles, but it’s long enough and changes enough that you don’t really mind the repetition.  It is mostly just an acoustic guitar with some light percussion, but it fits (and sets) the mood perfectly, and is a nice piece of music in its own right.

The one criticism I have is the ending.  Figuring out all the little changes and options that allow you to get to the end is really satisfying, but the ending itself is pretty disappointing.  It’s almost as if the developer thought “oh yeah, this is supposed to be an ‘art game’ - I need to make a confusing attempt at emotional impact now.”  I won’t describe it because I suppose it’s a “spoiler,” but it was out of place and jarring.  It wasn’t enough to ruin the rest of the experience for me, but it was certainly a letdown.

The ending aside, Every Day the Same Dream was a really fun and interesting game.  It’s not quite as moving or emotionally impactful as it wants to be, but for me the base gameplay was solid enough to carry the experience.  This is one of the bigger indie freeware titles out there, so if you’re interested in that scene, you should definitely play it.  But I would argue that almost anyone would get more out of it than the ten minutes and no money they put into it.  You can play it for free in your browser here and visit the developer’s site here.