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Preview: Dream Killer

3:00 PM on 06.29.2009 // Hamza CTZ Aziz

Mindware Studios, the creators of Painkiller Overdose, are coming out with a new first person shooter game called Dream Killer. The game stars Alice Drake, a psychiatrist who uses special abilities to actually dive into her patient's minds in order to treat their mental illnesses.

When I saw Dream Killer in action last week, it felt like it was a combination of Psychonauts, BioShock and Doom. Three great games, but does combining those three concepts into one work? Find out after the break. 

Dream Killer (Xbox 360 [Previewed -- Hands-off], PC)
Developer: Mindware Studios

Publisher: Aspyr
To be released: October, 2009

The game follows Alice Drake, a psychiatrist who can go into her patient's minds to help cure their disturbed minds. In the demo I saw, Alice went into the mind of a patient suffering from maniaphobia, the fear of going insane. Since you'll be going into the mind of different people in the course of the 12 levels, each level will have a unique look and feel to it. The monsters you'll encounter will also be unique to each mind. 

As you play through the game, Alice will figure out that there is something extremely wrong with some of the minds she tries to heal. Some of them really shouldn't be that messed up. Alice learns that there's an outside sinister force at work preying on these people that she must confront. There should be a good amount of cutscense and story in Dream Killer, although I didn't see any during my preview. Alice did speak during combat at certain points to narrate what was going on.

Alice has a few other tricks that she uses to fight for her patients sanity. She can use pyrokinesis to shoot flames out of their hands. She can use telekinesis to pick up things or push things out of the way. Her most unique ability though is her teleportation ability. When using teleportation, a green silhouette of Alice sprints forward to wherever the player is looking at. Once you let go of the teleport button, Alice will appear where her silhouette ended up. You can't teleport through walls, but you can through enemies.

The patient's subconscious also helps out Alice by providing her with really over the top weapons to use. The first gun Alice gets is a giant chaingun  the one in the first picture up top) that also doubles as a grenade launcher. You can only carry one gun at a time, but you get a secondary weapon attachment and infinite ammo with every gun. That totally makes sense since you're technically inside someone's head. You shouldn't need ammo. Granted, it makes about as much sense as a woman with super natural powers that can dive into her patient's mind and fight monsters created out of the patient's fears ... Some of the stronger weapons have a slow reload to balance out the infinite ammo perk.

The enemies will all have a unique look and feel to them based on the patient's disease. In this level, I saw a lot of enemies with steal cages covering their head and gargoyle looking creatures. When I say a lot, I really mean a lot. Dream Killer uses arena based combat so you'll get flooded with enemies and won't be able to move to the next area until every single enemy is killed. Killing these monsters heals your patient's mind and also nets you some rewards. Monsters will drop a couple of different types of dream catchers that will either give you health or experience points. 

The HUD is made up of four energy sources. On the top left, you have your energy meter for your PK, TK and teleportation special abilities. The meter drains differently for each power but recharges over time. The top right is your kill meter. If you kill so many monsters within a certain amount of time, Alice will go into Berserk mode. She'll move faster, deal more damage and everything looks like a TV channel that's getting no signal. On the bottom right is your experience meter. Gaining experience will let you upgrade your weapons to three different levels. On the bottom left you have your health meter. It felt like spreading out the meters took up too much screen real estate. All of the meters could have easily been positioned in one spot rather than the four corners.

I didn't get hands-on with Dream Killer so I can't say how good the controls were. There looks like there's going to be a lot of action in the game, but the fact that you have to kill swarms of monsters before moving on might turn some people off. Plus, seeing the same monster over and over was getting old fast.

Visually, the game looked really hot and reminded me a lot of BioShock's look. There were some issues here and there, but the build was nearly in Alpha stages. Since you're jumping from mind to mind, we should expect a lot of unique level designs. At one part in the level I saw, there was some wallpaper of a cat-human creature in a tuxedo about to eat a child it was holding. Priceless. 

There's a lot going for Dream Killer. It has a great visual style, it could potentially have a really great engaging story and I just love the fact that the main character is a female. When was the last time we saw that? (Portal doesn't count because that more of a puzzle game and Perfect Dark Zero doesn't count because that was just a horrible game.)

The only negative things I took away from the preview were the unintuitive HUD and the repetitive feel of the monsters. 

Dream Killer has a lot of potential and I'm definitely looking forward to the game when it's released this October. 

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