Do Animals Dream? Review: A Question for the Ages
Do Animals Dream? That’s the provocative name and question of the game from Black Vein Productions. As a very happy omnivore, I was definitely intrigued by a game that promised to “forever change how you view animals.” We’ve all met the vegan that’ll berate you for loving butter (and the equally obnoxious carnivore who thinks all vegans are smelly hippies), and I think there’s a fine line to walk when discussing personal food choices. A line that can very easily cross over into proselytizing. Do Animals Dream? manages to find a surprising balance on an often contentious topic. And before you read further, I’d like to share a similar disclaimer to one given by the game’s developers: there will be scenes of violence in this game that made even me quite uncomfortable at times.
Cutesy, Yet Surprisingly Intense
The story in Do Animals Dream? begins with players taking on the role of a whaler’s son. Which might seem like an extreme example, but it does set the stage for some of the intense questions and scenarios the game will present you with. Shortly after harpooning a whale, your whaling ship mysteriously seems to come under attack. Surrounded by a strange gas, everybody quickly loses consciousness. Upon waking, you find yourself on an island populated by animals with the power of speech. Right from the start, you’ll be tasked to help save the lord of the island – a mighty lion who has mysteriously fallen ill. It’s up to you to explore the island, discovering the secrets it holds, and hopefully finding a cure for the sick feline.
Ever Been Guilt-Tripped By a Chicken?
A lot of the gameplay revolves around the game’s narrative. You’ll spend most of your time talking to various animals around the island to try and find the ingredients necessary to make the remedy for the lion lord. Most of them won’t simply give you the information you need, though, they’ll ask you a series of questions. A lot of these questions will really make you pause and consider your options. Do you tell the innocent little turtle on the shore that his whale friends aren’t coming back because you and your dad harpooned them all to death? Or do you let him continue living his happy little daydream of watching the whales? When a paraplegic chicken asks you to write a letter to her children saying it’s the fault of human mistreatment that she can’t walk and play with them, will you do it, or write something nasty instead? The choices you make are important. Choices influence how the animals react and speak to you, and will lead you to multiple endings, some of which are significantly more traumatizing than others.
Don’t Worry, Momma Cow Will Make Everything Better
Don’t let the line of questioning the animals put you through discourage you from playing, though. While there are times where it feels like the game is trying to scold you into being a vegan, I honestly don’t think this is the case. While you may not get a completely balanced presentation of all sides of the issue (which I don’t believe is entirely necessary, anyway), Do Animals Dream? feels less and less preachy when you start going down different routes of questions and answers. I was quite pleasantly surprised that not every animal castigates you if you eat meat. There’s even one particular animal that takes veganism to an incredible extreme. While some of the dialogue is definitely intense and at times a bit upsetting, it still makes you think. It pushes you to look at the topic through different lenses, and to even think more about the choices you make, and why you make them.
Enjoy the Comfort of an Ever-Looming Gorilla
Artistically, there’s really not much to dislike about Do Animals Dream? Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot to love, either. The rather cutesy character models and the pretty island setting give a veneer of charm over an otherwise pretty serious game. Really, my only complaint for the animal models is that most of them simply look too stiff. The animals end up looking more like stuffed animal plushes than actual living, talking creatures. Still, the creatures are awful cute, even when they threaten to maul and/or eat you. Environments are perfectly fine, if nothing particularly special. The scenery is perfectly serviceable and never detracts from the story or gameplay. Music and sounds are admittedly meh. Like the scenery, it’s okay, just nothing really memorable or special.
My greatest sticking point with this game is the controls. Walking around just feels so weirdly clunky. It doesn’t feel natural at all – it’s almost like you’re constantly strafing, or like the game world is rotating under your feet. There’s just something off about the way your character moves about. Thankfully, examining elements of the environment and talking to the animals is simple enough. Still, not quite enough to make up for the super clunky movement.
An Interesting, Unique Experience
Do Animals Dream? is unlike anything I’ve ever played. Its cute exterior masks an intensely serious interior. You’ll question what you think you know about what you eat and why. And you’ll likely be very uncomfortable during most of your experience. Yet the discomfort is a compelling factor in the game. Push through it, and keep an open mind. While I doubt it will convert anybody to veganism, it may make you connect more with your food, which is never a bad thing.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Black Vein Productions; Developer: Black Vein Productions; Players: 1; Released: June 14th, 2021 MSRP: $7.99
Editor’s note: The publisher provided a review copy to Hey Poor Player.