Much like brain surgery or rifle marksmanship, proficiency with Dream Trigger 3D comes only after determined hands-on practice. While both the instruction booklet and an in-game tutorial explain the fundamentals, the title’s ‘pat your head while rubbing your belly’ multitasking is bound to lead to a series of preliminary game over screens. Learning to simultaneously manipulate the circle pad, stylus and trigger isn’t a skill that is often required from gamers. Yet, once players master the activity, Dream Trigger reveals itself to be an enjoyable, albeit limited, 3DS experience.
Prudently forgoing a plotline to explain the game’s abstract mechanics, players use the portable’s analog nub to guide an avatar around the top screen, avoiding waves of enemy bullets. Unlike most shmups, Dream Trigger‘s bullet-spewing baddies are initially concealed from the player, forcing gamers to use the bottom screen to draw dormant sonar charges. In tempo with the game’s soundtrack, a vertical line periodically sweeps the screen, converting these etchings into pings capable of revealing an antagonist. To destroy these foes, players must hold the trigger down, as they collide into the innocuous-looking insolents.
All the while, gamers are compelled to manage their shot power- which gradually recharges as foes are uncovered, and renders the avatar invincible when it employed. Additionally, a number of color-coded powerups defy collection, often sending players into dangerous areas for scoring, health, or energy perks. While the learning curve for right-handed participants is steep, southpaws have it even harder- they are forced to use to A,B,Y and X buttons as a makeshift circle pad substitute.
Once players adapt to Dream Trigger’s concurrent components, the game becomes temporarily absorbing, as players are required to devote their complete concentration to each five-minute long level. Individually, each of the cartridge’s fifty-five stages offer a brief succession of cascading foes, culminating in a boss battle. Regretfully, these concluding conflicts reveal the title’s one fatal flaw- a lack of collective variety. It’s been said that repetition is the bane of all video games, with the best ones able to mask it. Although Dream Trigger delivers an assortment of animated backgrounds, songs, and even varies the player’s avatar, sonar, and enemy types, there is an unmistakable homogeny to each of the levels. Part of the problem may be the patterns of antagonists, which follow predicable, serpentine paths too often. Undeniably, the central source of tedium comes from the title’s boss battles, which frequently succumb to ‘shoot the boss when it’s black’ simplicity. Not even a collection of different game modes, ranging from a time attack to a local multiplayer variant, seems to alleviate Dream Trigger’s drab uniformity, although a laundry list of 117 in-game achievements humbly tries.
Fortunately, the game’s vibrant visuals make the most of the 3DS hardware. Powerups flow though 3D space, enemy bullets flow in pinwheel patterns, and backdrops pulsate and gyrate with exuberance. Occasionally, the scenery becomes a bit too frantic, momentary obscuring the player’s agenda, although even deeper concentration can assist gamers through these moments. Sonically, the electronic beats complement the game’s abstract graphics, offering a eccentric mix which doesn’t sound muted when listening with headphones.
Reminiscent of experimental DS titles such as Big Bang Mini, Dream Trigger 3D is best enjoyed in short, concentrated bursts. While the title is difficult to recommend at its current forty dollar MSRP, players looking for a creative, commute-time 3DS game might want to pick up Dream Trigger at the first sign of a price drop.