What is it?
The Orphan Dreams is a rather macabre, at times extremely gory point and click adventure/puzzle game. You play as an orphan troubled by horrific nightmares that seem to spill into reality. It features a nonlinear story and permadeath is a featured mechanic, meaning no saves and you keep going, no matter what happens.
Does it work?
Yes, mostly. The game makes enough sense, and even with absolutely zero tutorial I was able to play with no trouble. That said, the click boxes for some items are frustratingly small, and the game doesn’t allow you to do much more than proceed through the world.
Could I play it for an hour?
Not quite, I only played for 45 minutes.
Am I happy I have it now that I’ve played it?
Not particularly. If I was rich, sure, but I’m not. I’d rather have had a sandwich or something.
The permadeath mechanic meant no reloading of saves. If I missed something I would have to go back and replay from the beginning, a roughly 20 minute experience. On my second time through Chapter 1 (I never made it to chapter 2) I had an idea how to get the “best” ending, but I couldn’t find the necessary collectables and was not committed enough to make another play through just to find them. The amount of commitment the developer expected from me as a player just didn’t match up to the amount of variety and replay-ability I found in the game.
In The Orphan Dream’s defense, it is well put together and compelling. I genuinely felt sad for the Orphan’s awful situation, and intrigued by the twisted world presented to me. The art style managed to mimic the drawings of a child without compromising on immersion or clarity. I was only briefly frustrated by mechanical issues (a click box was much too small for my liking) at no point was I too confused or unsure of my direction. The game just didn’t wow me enough to warrant a third play through looking for the one hallway I must have missed.
The nail in the coffin, for me, was that despite playing through twice and receiving different endings both times, I did not unlock the second part of the game, chapter 2. I can only assume the best ending is required to unlock chapter 2, and I felt punished by that.. If the game offered a more intricate or interactive story, I might have been motivated enough to work harder. But it doesn’t.