Considering the multitude of point-and-click independent flash games I’ve played, there’s one that stands out to me as an example of especially immersive design and execution: The Dream Machine. This game follows the lives of two newly-wed individuals, from a beginning dream state, to their home. The player controls the man, moving him through rooms, exploring, and interacting with objects.

Perhaps the first element of this game which makes it immersive is the attention to interactions which are not relevant to the story. The player can open and shut doors, faucets, windows. The actions mirror the mental models built from real world interactions with such objects. This is not completely unique but still a differentiating factor from many games in the point-and-click exploration genre. When the character has an item, he can attempt to interact with that item on most all of the other objects in the game… though the corresponding response may draw attention to the absurdity of the attempted action (why use a shovel on your own head?).

Given the large number of games in this genre, the medium of the design of The Dream Machine — claymation — sets it apart. The player is not able to connect the look of the game with other subpar games in the genre. This visual design demands a new mental model from the player. The landscapes and actions of the players, though pushing slightly towards the uncanny valley, are lush and detailed. Sounds accompany all actions to heighten the sense that this is a real interaction. Conversations have multiple paths which the player can choose. Though some can be rehashed, eliminating some of the authenticity, often these conversations pass and cannot be returned to. Characters that are talked to may not be present on the next return. Certain elements, such as doors and certain floors, are not accessible to the player — you cannot walk in on your neighbor, though some games allow such interactions which would not be present. Though this is only in the first chapter, these interactions set the stage of a very normal environment, to be disrupted as the game takes more sinister and bizarre turns.

These are just some of the fine details of this game which I’d encourage you to try. The first chapter is free, though later chapters are pay. Given the intensive nature of its development, the full game will not be released for a while, though chapters are playable as they are released.

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