I am a woman with a lot of different ambitions. Just focusing on game reviews and coverage, I often have so many different niches to choose from that it can be difficult to keep a focus. This plays into why it’s been over a year since the last time I made an Impressions & Commentary piece. Thus the common thread in the two I’ve done is that they are impressions of the opening to a game, whether it be a Demo or the in game intro. The subject of today’s piece is the former, and is the first non visual novel to be covered in this format by me.
She Dreams Elsewhere is an indie RPG that its developer has described to me in an email as “like EarthBound had a baby with Adult Swim.” The cliche comparison framing aside, I would note that the idea of EarthBound x Adult Swim has actually been done before with LISA: The Painful, a game which I have also gave a glowing review to before. I also believe the the comparison is far more befitting for LISA than She Dreams Elsewhere but I will get to that a little later.
I would like to disclose that I am doing this piece specifically because it was requested and I felt that developer Davionne made a fairly decent case for it. I actually started playing the Demo a while back but got sidetracked as usual. My impressions are overall positive but you probably want me to say a bit more than that. Also for the other three or so Devs who have asked me to cover one of their games, I haven’t forgotten about you and I do plan to cover yours as well.
She Dreams Elsewhere opens up with a brief dream sequence that involves a few simplistic battles against enemies called “No Hearts.” While I wouldn’t say the general feel of She Dreams Elsewhere nails the EarthBound appeal as well as something like Undertale, I can definitely see the similarities in its surrealism and design. Just look at the following image of the forced loss battle at the end of the aforementioned dream sequence.
That background looks an awful lot like Giygas doesn’t it? The resemblance HAS to be intentional. Even without the Giygas reference the wavering backgrounds and the odd enemy names definitely have that EarthBound like surrealism to it. As for the adult swim part, I wouldn’t say that having a few naughty words here and there and some weed references puts the game in the same territory with Adult Swim. In order to get there, you need to have a fuck ton of edgy swearing and crude jokes while also being very fucking cynical and depraved.
Yes yes I know I am looking WAY too deeply into that comparison, and to be fair I likely would have agreed had I not played LISA first so I can’t fault Davionne too much on that front. Also this IS just the demo and maybe it gets more Adult Swimmy later on, but I only have to go based on the short demo.
Anyway what happens after the nightmare sequence is that our main character Thalia is revealed to be a nervous and depressed disaster and a total wreck, and this came as a total shock because It basically meant I was playing as myself except cis… as far as I know…
Nah, I’m pretty sure Thalia isn’t trans but if she is then I would stuff my life savings into a cannon and blast them them at her so hard that she we will have enough money to pay for 10% of the hospital bills. Point is I don’t have much money but I will say very very nice things about her and her game. As far as I know though, the only minorities represented are the disabled and I believe people of color. Some of the character designs do look reminiscent of black culture but being a white shut in I wouldn’t know enough to confirm that.
Anyway Thalia gets invited to a party by her friend Amia who is basically Audrey from HuniePop as opposed to Thalia who is more like Nikki… okay maybe I wouldn’t go that far. I like Amia but she has this weird thing where she shifts between borderline abusive statements like “Now get dressed, loser – we’re gettin’ wasted” to full on yuri territory by saying stuff like “I WANNA KNOW YOU’RE SAFE. LET ME LOVE YOU.”
I have had enough interactions with normies to know that a fair number of them talk like Amia. It is stated in a lot of the game’s promotional material that She Dreams Elsewhere is a game that heavily deals with themes like emotions and mental illness. The dynamic between Amia and Thalia was very familiar with me because I always found it frustrating interaction with neurotypical people because they all assumed I was like them. Even without the trans stuff, a lot of people don’t seem to know how to not trigger sensory overload in normal conversations and I often get the impression that my own family treats me like a child simply because I choose to speak less. Having this experience, I am very curious to see how the rest of the game handles it.
Anyway after a very awkward party where Thalia pretends to know how to socialize, she leaves early. Then things start getting weird and she tries to find her pet that wanders off. This leads to another dungeon where you get used to the battle system more until you eventually meet up with Amia who can also fight for some reason. Then you fight a boss and do a bit more exploring until the Demo ends.
She Dreams Elsewhere definitely shows quite a bit of promise and I do hope to review the full game at some point after it comes out. Just about everything from an aesthetic stand point is nailed very well, and the writing makes the characters feel real and varied. While I can’t say much about the overall quality of the story or gameplay, there is definite potential with this concept and hopefully these dreams don’t stay dreams.
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