Everyone knows you shouldn’t eat cheese before bedtime: wild, vivid, apparitions await anyone foolish enough to dabble with dairy, but perhaps that’s just the lactose intolerance talking. If you want to have a mind altering experience, do drugs instead; less calories and less intestinal discomfort (although in some instances this can lead to death and other scary consequences, so you’ve been warned). Fortunately for us all, no one has passed on this gem of wisdom to Squeak the mouse, star of Squeak’s Dreams on the iOS, which can only mean one thing – cheese dreams!
Squeak’s Dreams is a wonderfully simple iPhone game that couples a basic control scheme with gloriously buoyant physics, in homage to the 2D side scrollers of yesteryear. The aim of the game is to pass through each level, collecting cheesy ingots, with the ultimate goal of nabbing enough nuggets to activate the bed, of conveniently mouse-sized proportions, that can be found at the end of each stage. There are 13 levels in all, split over 3 areas; The Garden, The River, and The House. The bonus dream levels are only available if Squeak hits the cheese quota and each stage, with the exception of the final boss level, grants you the opportunity to do this. As with the normal levels, the dream stages have three different themes corresponding to the three respective areas that the beds are found in. Once you enter the land of nod, there’s cheese galore waiting to be snuffled up by Squeak’s subconscious, culminating in the ultimate mouse’s fantasy; no, it isn’t the footage of Minnie during that photo shoot she made before she hit the big time. “I didn’t know they were filming!” Tell that to Mickey. It is, in fact, a humungous wedge of cheese. Bagging the big cheese is the only way to complete the dream, regardless of whether you totted up enough baby cheeses along the way. At least one complete dream per area is where true victory lies.
The touchscreen controls are simple: two directional arrows on the left and jump on the right. Initially, the responsiveness of the controls seemed a little too sensitive, but they are in fact, quite refined. The old school physics are great, as only the lightest of touches is needed to send Squeak shooting through the air like a furry tennis ball. Squeak gains momentum very quickly, particularly when bouncing on raspberries, bees and ivy leaves, and once you’ve committed yourself along a certain path, it’s nigh on impossible to start backtracking mid-leap, so remember the 6 Ps: prior planning prevents piss poor performance. For a game with no violence or unpleasant consequences to speak of, this mechanic nevertheless manages to instil a sense of tension as you scurry through the stages. Aside from the pitfalls of brambles and rivers, some of the levels contain a sprinkling of mouse traps, and whilst they won’t kill you, they will penalise you by taking away five of your precious cheeses.
Between the bouncing bees and berries, diffusing mouse traps and riding dragonflies, there’s a surprising amount of variety for such a short game, not to mention the dream sequences. In The Garden, Squeak dreams of pink elephants tethered to coloured balloons, floating skyward through wispy white clouds and caches of airborne cheese; during his snoozes alongside The River, Squeak is submerged in a watery world of cheese and bubbles (perhaps he is lactose intolerant after all); and in the nooks and crannies of The House, Squeak straddles a pencil rocket and against the backdrop of a star spangled vacuum, whirls around like a puck on an air hockey table, sucking up a trail of celestial cheese like a rodent Roomba.
The game is optimised for the iPhone 4S and will run at a smooth 60fps. The graphics are a composition of hand-drawn artwork and photography, which simulates a 3D environment to an extent and certainly looks unique. The majority of the game is set to a background of the soothing sounds of nature, but the dream sequences and some portions of the regular gameplay introduce a soundtrack which I must admit, I absolutely adored! Justin Towell, the creator, composed and performed all of the music, using a guitar, a keyboard, electric drum kit and even an iPad, as well as dipping into a library of his own songs for some of the segments and the results range from spine tingling, beatific piano notes during the ascending elephants dream scenario to an 80’s arcade inspired riff that just screams “badass boss fight”. Whilst I was pleasantly surprised with the visuals, I was taken aback with the soundtrack, sparse though it is.
There were a few niggles that caused mild frustration, such as the pencil rocket dream sequence which felt a bit too loose for my tastes, and the ivy leaves that will ricochet Squeak like an errant pinball if not precisely landed on from above. The game is short, but on the plus side, it won’t suck hours of your life away. It’s the perfect length for an iOS game designed to be played in those unfortunate bouts of time you’re away from your console and it has great replay value, as you will no doubt find yourself going back to it, to try to get all of those elusive, big cheeses.
There’s no obvious level select screen, but this isn’t a huge problem because of the aforementioned duration of the game. Besides, level selection is for cheats. Man up and do it in one run through! But if you keep your eyes peeled and maybe do some poking around, you might find yourself on the receiving end of a few surprises!
Overall, Squeak’s Dreams was a fun little foray into the cheese obsessed world of the noble field mouse. Short and sweet, with unique aesthetics, a great soundtrack and replay value coming out of the wazoo, for 99c/ 69p, it’ll make a great addition to your game library.