Amiga Cover Art
|Designer(s)||Herman Serrano, James Hutchby, Tony King|
|Composer(s)||David Whittaker (Amiga, Atari ST)
Barry Leitch (MS-DOS, Commodore 64)
|Release date(s)||1988 (DOS)
1989 (Atari ST, Amiga)
|Genre(s)||cinematic platformer adventure|
Weird Dreams is a cinematic platformer game by Rainbird Software which was published for the Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64 and DOS. A modified version of it served as the visual component to a phone-in quiz on ITV's Motormouth.
The game box comes with a 64-page novella with 19 chapters written by Rupert Goodwins, featuring the back-story of the game. The novella also serves as a copy-protection mechanism (the game asks the player to type in a specific word from a certain paragraph on a particular page).
There are 15 different enemies/challenges (cotton candy stick, giant wasp, rosebush with teeth, lawnmower, soccer ball with mouth, little girl with steak knife, jack-in-the-box clown, fat dancing ballerina, hopping totem poles, desert creatures (featured on the box), fake doors, bats, a chicken monster, and a large brain with an eye in the middle), 7 different death animations and 5 different musical scores by C64/Amiga musician legend David Whittaker on the Amiga. Barry Leitch did the music for the Commodore 64 and PC version.
Game progress is tracked by a time counter and a heart rate monitor of Steve, which goes from 75bpm (normal) to 100bpm (in frightening situations) to 170bpm (shortly before death).
The background story is told by the novella. Steve is in love with his attractive coworker Emily. Unbeknownst to Steve, Emily is possessed by a daemon named Zelloripus who was banished to Earth, stripped of most of her powers, and trapped into a human female due to unspecified crimes done to other daemons.
Emily sees a chance to let someone else suffer and stifle her boredom. She tricks Steve to take three pills she has mixed to "cure his flu". While the pills do cure him, they also grant Zelloripus access to his body and mind. His dreams become both more lucid and strange, each one getting more intense and painful. Steve's psychiatrist does not understand what causes the dreams, and neither does Steve. He refers him to a neurosurgeon. After his health dramatically declines, Steve undertakes brain surgery in an attempt to stop the dreams. Under an anaesthetic, he slips into one more dream, possibly his last.
The game starts where Rupert Goodwins' novella ends, with Steve lying on the operating table and slipping into the dream world. Steve is controlled by the player through numerous surreal worlds. He can collect certain weapons and items on these levels, but with a few exceptions, cannot carry them to another level. Steve has no health meter; he immediately dies if he comes into contact with an enemy or an obstacle. He can also die if he remains too long in certain areas such as the Country Garden, where a lawnmower will come and decimate him. When Steve dies, the game returns to the scene in the operating room where the surgeons attempt to save him. There are no save points in the game, and instead of score points the player's progress is stated as a percentage.
Steve can acquire the following weapons/items through the game:
- Candy Floss (from the candy floss machine): Used to distract the giant wasp.
- Fly Swatter (Fairground): Used for pushing the giant wasp away.
- Stick (English Country Garden): Used for defeating the rosebush with teeth.
- Soccer ball with mouth (English Country Garden): Carried by the little girl with the steak knife, but later on swallows her up and becomes an item Steve carries. Later in the game, it can be used to eat a path through the green colored desert (it explodes afterward). It can also be used on the fat ballerina (but ineffectively).
- Electric Eel (Hall of Tubes): Can harm Steve if not carefully taken; helps to defeat the wasp which breaks into the hall of mirrors later on.
- Flying Fish (Desert): Caught from the sky in the desert. Used to defeat the jumping totem poles and desert creatures and to destroy the statue which holds an orb, and helps release the orbs orbiting the brain in the last level.
- Green/Blue/Red Orb: All three orbs need to be collected by Steve in order to win the game. The first one is carried by the giant wasp on the fairground, the second one is hidden inside the statue in the desert and the last one is found in an old pendulum clock on the hall of doors level.
Levels and enemies
- Fairground: Steve's dream begins at a giant candy floss machine, where he must collect cotton candy on his body and jump onto the rotating stick takes him to the fairground, where he encounters a giant wasp carrying the first orb. He leaves the fairground through a door into the hall of mirrors.
- Hall of Mirrors: The rest of the game is accessed through the hall of mirrors. Walking through each of the mirrors leads to a different location, including the fairground. Two of the mirrors cannot be accessed until the English Country Garden and Desert have been explored. Later in the game, the giant wasp breaks into this level.
- English Country Garden: A green garden on a sunny day. Steve must first defeat rosebushes with teeth and avoid a lawnmower that can shred him to bits if he takes too long. Then he must defeat a little smiling girl wielding a steak knife by repeatedly catching and bouncing back her soccer ball, which can develop a mouth with huge teeth. The background music is Country Gardens.
- Desert: A dry desert with flying fish in the sky, hopping totem poles, large desert monsters, and a green statue holding the second orb. Quicksand is used to return to the hall of mirrors.
- Hall of Tubes: A large hall with lots of tubes everywhere. The floor is made of overlarge piano keys which strike upward, played by a jack-in-the-box clown. There is also a fat ballerina dancing to the Dance of the Sugar-plum Fairy (from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite) and an aquarium with an electric eel which can be taken and used as a weapon. A rotating tube at the end brings Steve back to the hall of mirrors.
- Hall of Doors: A hall with a wooden floor, brown wallpaper, and tall doors left slightly ajar (attempting to enter them results in Steve being bitten in half by large mouths). Steve has to avoid flying bats and a chicken monster.
- Desert with Tree: Back at the desert, facing a giant brain growing on a tree stump with three orbs orbiting it. The brain has an enormous eye in the middle. By releasing the three orbs, the game ends and Steve wakes up on the operating table, finally free from Zelloripus's attempts to kill him. In the Amiga and MS-DOS versions of the game, one of the surgeons turns out to be a knife-wielding woman, possessed by Zelloripus who cackles at Steve with a resounding laugh after the player finishes the game.
The general plot was conceived by the developers, and Rupert Goodwins was asked to write the novella included with the game. However, the original plot of the game was simply that the player character was dreaming while under surgery, and if his heart rate increased too far, he would wake up from anaesthesia and be forced to experience surgery while fully awake. Rainbird insisted that this was changed after several real-life incidents of failed anaesthesia in hospitals, and the only remnant of this version is in early magazine previews of the game, some of which showed screenshots of the original game over screen (which showed a scalpel being lowered towards the character's point of view).
The scenarios in the game are not based on Serrano's own nightmares, but are inspired by the paintings of Salvador Dalí, Terry Gilliam's cartoon animations for Monty Python, and on odd observations. After a visit to the dentist, Serrano developed a phobia of teeth, which is noticeable in the design of the monsters, many of them having mouths with large teeth.
The game took over a year to produce.
Weird Dreams received mixed reviews. While everyone praised its visual style, there were some criticisms depending on the game platform. Frustrating difficulty, long loading times, and a disappointing soundtrack were common criticisms, albeit not unanimous.
- The Bird Sanctuary
- Penn, Gary (June 1989). "Weird Dreams(Review)". The One for 16-bit Games (9).
- Weird Dreams review from The One for 16-bit Games 9 (Jun 1989)
- Weird Dreams review from ST Amiga Format 13 (Jul 1989)
- Weird Dreams review from Amiga Action 4 (Jan 1990)
- Weird Dreams review from The Games Machine 20 (Jul 1989)
- Weird Dreams review from Zzap 60 (Apr 1990)
- Weird Dreams review from Computer + Video Games 101 (Apr 1990)