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Preview: Balthazar's Dream

Adventure through a doggy dreamworld to save your best friend in this puzzle-platformer.

Balthazar’s Dream is an upcoming puzzle-platformer developed by Psilocybe Games. This pixelated adventure will also be the first complete game that the small team of humans (and one dog) has made.

You play as Balthazar, a border collie given as a gift to an 8-year old child named Dustin. The two become fast and inseparable friends, but one day the child is hit by a van and falls into a coma. Balthazar, faithful as ever, never leaves his side.

Asleep, the dog traverses through an odd dreamscape to save Dustin from an unseen force ready to take the boy away. Balthazar will have to overcome vacuum cleaners, cats, death pits and more to reach his owner before it’s too late!

The gameplay is simple in concept, but surprisingly difficult in execution (in a good way!) You run and jump across floating tables and flying couches, over bottomless pits, and navigate mazes of dangerous chocolate spikes throughout the level.

Want to save your progress? Pee on a fire hydrant.

A fun challenge of Balthazar's Dream comes from timing-based puzzles that require fast thinking and precise movements. In light of this the game is forgiving, setting checkpoints near puzzles they know you’ll die many times trying to overcome.

There are clever aspects of the game that let you know care was put into developing it; like the fact that both chocolate spikes and grape bullets result in instant death, when you consider that both of those foods are actually poisonous to dogs. Baths? Instant death. Want to save your progress? Pee on a fire hydrant. Is there a vacuum cleaner nearby? Stick around it too long and you’ll eventually be running in the other direction.

An interesting mechanic the game uses is a “Smarts Bar,” which acts like a run-of-the-mill stamina meter at first. It is introduced with the same purpose as usual stamina bars: holding onto ropes drains the meter, dropping you if your Smarts run out completely. But the neat thing is that later in the game, you’ll need to tactically lose your Smarts if you want to progress; something I haven’t seen a lot of other game do. It provides an interesting puzzle and a new way to use the Smarts Bar when vacuums and balls are near.

As of right now, the demo does have a few bugs that will hopefully be fixed when the full game releases. Sometimes the jump will not register, you'll get hit by a ghost grape bullet, or can even be eternally trapped under a falling table. Sometimes it is also hard to see what platforms you can land on as a lot of these objects blend in with background.

The full version of Balthazar's Dream is scheduled to release on November 15 for Windows and Mac. If you’re a fan of pixel-style platformers, you can check out the free-to-play early access demo on GameJolt. If you end up liking what you see, you can also support Psilocybe on their Patreon page or offer feedback on the game.

What do you think of Balthazar's Dream? Let us know in the comments below!

Published Nov. 4th 2016

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