So I’m walking down a street and at the end of a walkway there’s a giant face. It’s mouth is open and the walkway I’m on goes directly into it. It’s face is psychedelically coloured and it watches me as I get closer to it. As I get closer music begins to play. I enter the mouth and the dream is over. That was one of my first experiences playing LSD. Interested?
It’s pretty hard to shove the Playstation game LSD into any known genre. If you check it on on Wikipedia it has it pegged as an action adventure. Well, there’s no real action in the game so I guess it’s an adventure game. Then again, there’s no real point to the adventure as all you do is experience the world set out before you. But then again most times people will call a game an “experience” to either make themselves sound incredibly smart or to make a shite game sound better than it really is. You know, sure it can be a shite game but it’s all about the experience, man! But that doesn’t suit LSD. The games full name is LSD: Dream Emulator and that’s what it is- a dream emulator. It’s a bizarre concoction of brain sizzling visuals, mind bending locations as well as clumsy controls and a rigid game mechanic that doesn’t really work on so many levels.
Released in 1998 on the Playstation by Asmik Ace Entertainment LSD would never see beyond Japanese shores. I mean, for all those people who moan about games from Japan not getting a western release this is a game where anyone who plays it will completely understand why. Based on a dream journal of someone working in the company you basically walk from dream to dream as a chart maps out how surreal yours dreams are. However, unlike most normal people who dream of boring stuff like meeting a certain celebrity or being naked in school the person whose dreams this game was based off apparently dreams of 100 ft tall horses, eyes in walls that watch you, murdered people who still scream, massive horned demons walking through a village and giant fucking babies that crawl toward you in a corridor. Ah, LSD, It’s a hell of a place. Every wall is randomly textured and with every object you touch you’ll be transported to another dream scenario. So you basically walk from dream to dream and explore. For the most part this can be tedious but when you find an interesting scene it’s pretty exciting. Like once, I was walking down a city street and I found a chalk outline as if there was a murder there previously. So I look around and find that there’s a whole bunch of eyes now in the nearby buildings looking at me as I move around. I walk down the street a bit further and there’s a white flash as a man appears. He’s dressed in black and his face can’t be seen. He walks toward me and slowly fades away as I hear a woman moaning and crying. It’s that kind of game. The kind of game that will divide most gamers into the group that find it boring, bland and nonsense and the group that will find it different, intriguing and fun. It’s not a game like Gear of Wars that grabs you by the nuts, gritting it’s man teeth while flexing its hanging sock muscle. No, It’s the kind of game that doesn’t even ask you to play it. It’s the kind of game that needs to be discovered, to be cherished.
The game is broken into separate dreams with each one lasting around 10 minutes unless you don’t fall off a cliff and wake up. At the beginning of the game dreams can be quite boring though. The player must do their best to “link” dreams by walking into and entering any object within the dream environment. For instance, as I played it I was walking through a dark and empty field. As I progressed I came across what appeared to be four tiny little men marching along in line. I walked into them thereby “linking” to another dream. The new dream environment was textured much like the little men were, bright, colourful and striking. It appears as if the more you “link” dreams the more likely that you’ll see something that’s pretty crazy.
I guess the point of LSD is to enjoy your dreams and as stated before this is mapped out on a chart. The chart, however, is just as complicated and as confusing as the game. The chart basically maps out your dream in four ways, UPPER, DOWNER, STATIC and DYNAMIC. I guess we can assume that UPPER would count as a pretty interesting dream while DOWNER could be summed up as a brief and boring dream. As for STATIC and DYNAMIC, after playing it for some time I believe STATIC to be a long dream where nothing much happens while DYNAMIC would be the polar opposite.
Now while LSD is a game that is very interesting and unusual the controls are horrific. They’re clunky, cumbersome and unresponsive. Sometimes while running down a corridor a light press of the left d-pad sends the player hurtling into a wall thereby entering it. This is annoying especially when you are running towards something that’s new and interesting and suddenly find yourself bumping into an object and leaving that unique dream forever. Also, a lot of environments do get repetitive even though they are randomly fitted together and textured. For instance, there is a dream of a city and dock that is seen quite a lot but at times it all looks different, buildings are in different places as well as objects at times being randomly textured. This doesn’t really work though as, if you’re like me, by dream 55 you’ve seen the place enough times to just let out a groan. However, beyond all this LSD does have moments of visual minimalistic greatness. It doesn’t happen very often but as the old saying goes “less is more”. A certain scene I came across had me standing in a black void as grey cubes floated in the air. There was no music, no sound of footsteps. As I ran with no landscape as a reference point my perception of scale and size was meaningless. I know I was moving as the cubes very slowly went overhead however looking back that could have been the cubes moving instead, not me. The dream faded to black and I woke up.
LSD is one of those games that should be played merely because it’s different. It’s an odd experience that just shows us that games never need to be tied down to a specific genre or quick description. I often find that a lot of what the games industry is putting out just doesn’t interest me anymore. I just get the feeling as if SEGA looked at Devil May Cry and said “let’s make one of those” and we got Bayonetta. I get the feeling as if the suits of EA looked at Ken Levine and dropped him from the development of Bioshock 2 because they wanted a yearly Bioshock franchise from now on. A lot of games nowadays are cut from a similar mold. Sure, some do stand out and are lovely little gems but they don’t get nearly enough recognition as they probably should. Go get LSD and try it out. Even if you don’t like it at least you’ll know that it existed.
The views and opinions expressed by “Retroplayer” do not necessarily express or reflect the views and / or opinions of The Gaming Liberty.