Dream Master is a new game from independent solo developer Ruslan Kaminsky, aka “Zarrus.” Kaminsky has developed the game entirely solo, conjuring up the story and design from his own imagination; creating the art using a combination of colored pencils and the popular open source GIMP image manipulation software. He recorded both the sound and the game’s guitar-heavy music via GarageBand on the iPad.
Dream Master is a tower defense game with a distinctive hand-drawn aesthetic which gives the whole game the appearance of being something out of a childish hallucination. The protagonist, a deranged rabbit, is suffering from nightmares that are seeping into his reality. He considers killing himself, but is stopped from doing so by a mysterious other rabbit known as the Green Guru. Thus begins an adventure to fend off the forces of darkness summoned from the rabbit’s imagination.
Gameplay is fairly standard for the tower defense genre. The player is able to summon various defensive structures and place them on marked “Balance Points” along the path down which the nightmares will travel. Players spend “Concentration Points” to purchase towers and may remove the towers to get half of their cost back. As the game progresses, players unlock the ability to place different types of tower as well as the facility to upgrade them to more effective versions. If the nightmare monsters reach the end of the path, the player loses a point (or, in the case of some monsters, two points) of sanity, and when all sanity is gone, the game is over.
The player has the ability to temporarily slow down time for a few seconds. This only affects the speed of passing enemies, however — the player’s defenses continue to fire normally. Thus this becomes an important tactic for dealing with large groups of creatures or those which move too quickly to be destroyed by the towers the player has in place. The power takes a few seconds to regenerate, too, so timing of its use is very important.
The game is quite slow-paced and strategic, preferring to challenge the player with either very strong enemies or overwhelming numbers rather than fast-moving, difficult to hit adversaries. Each level takes quite some time to complete — the first one has 27 waves of enemies, and this increases with each subsequent level. It’s very much a game which is obviously intended to be engaged with fully rather than a casual diversion.
As it stands, the game is rather short and basic, and the English text could do with a proofread — there are a few grammatical and spelling errors throughout, most notably the use of “You Loose” rather than “You Lose” on the Game Over screen. Kaminsky is keen to provide regular updates of new content and expand the game over time, however — according to his blog it is something of a pet project for him. Already several new levels are being prepared, and Kaminsky intends to add at least three new monster types per level. He also hopes to add more in the way of player-activated skills alongside the time-slowing power, and social features in the form of both OpenFeint and Game Center support. Kaminsky does not appear to intend to monetize the game beyond its initial cost.
Small niggles aside, Dream Master is a fun little tower defense game, and the fact that Kaminsky has developed it entirely solo means it clearly has a unique, consistent creative vision behind it. The hand-drawn, colored pencil aesthetic works very well for the game’s peculiar story, and the haunting guitar soundtrack adds a great deal of atmosphere to the experience.
Dream Master will be available on the App Store from March 17 for $1.99. You’ll be able to follow its progress through the App Store charts with AppData, our tracking service for iOS and social games and developers.