"But he's just a baby. What does he have to dream about?"
"Being in the womb? He won't remember the dreams when he grows up."
"They have no memory yet. They don't know what this world is."
"I wonder what we dreamed of when we were babies?"
Babies Dream of Dead Worlds is a 2010 indie Adobe Flash game made by Gregory Weir.
The game is designed in an 8-bit style. In each Metroidvania-style segment you play as a winged Starfish Alien of an unnamed species that resembles a small rodent with butterfly wings. There are three major characters: Fuzor, a young racer, Mell, a researcher, and Naaij, an archaeologist, coloured blue, red and yellow respectively and their daily lives on their unnamed home planet...or home dimension. Throughout the game you can interact with computers, talk to other Starfish Aliens, beat a time trial, and even engage in a collect-a-thon.
"What does any of that have to do with babies?" you ask. Well, as you play, the main menu fills with human babies (who are in fact the only humans we see in the entire game). The implication is that these are human infants who are dreaming about an alien civilisation. As the game progresses you get a snapshot of life in this world, however, things are much deeper than they initially appear.
The game seems to be focused more on telling a story than on gameplay, though its gameplay is somewhat unique, utilising slippery but responsive gravity controls to simulate flight.
The game is very short (playing it all the way through will not take much more than fifteen minutes), and much of its replay value comes from replaying segments to collect items/get better times. There is no punishment for not getting the "best" ending to any level.
Tropes relating to this game include:
- Apocalypse How: It's unclear whether the creatures are inhabitants of another planet or of an alternate universe, so the game's ending is either a Class X or a Class X-4.
- Alien Geometries: The characters' world appears to be an empty void based around a straight line, with gravity growing stronger the further away from the line one becomes. This is reasonably well-explored: The characters themselves are bilaterally symmetrical, and one NPC complains of having to use the world's slingshot mechanics to get to their apartment on the "outer" floor.
- Ambiguous Ending / Downer Ending: Though we don't actually see it there's the strong implication that by the end all the major characters are or will be dead.
- Babies Make Everything Better: Averted. The levels you play are the dreams of human infants...whose undeveloped brains apparently carry with them memories of the dying days of a civilisation or possibly an entire universe.
- Deconstruction: Of "obstacle course"-style Flash games. What if obstacles like portals and rips in the fabric of time and space became unstable? What repercussions would that have for the universe?
- Driven to Suicide: Several characters appear suicidally depressed as the world is slowly torn to pieces by the rifts. Mell can only silently fly on, unable to help.
- Filler: Only Mell's stages actually advance the plot in any meaningful way, Fuzor and Naaij's levels are just there to challenge the player. And to provide a tiny bit of context as to how fractured the world is becoming.
- Heroic BSoD: Mell apparently suffers one of these judging by the way other characters accuse her of "giving up". Her neighbours also suffer BSODs and give up hope completely after the rifts start tearing the world to pieces.
- Jump Scare: Running into a rift results in a bright flash of purple and a Scare Chord which can cause the player to jump, and gets quite annoying when attempting to complete the collect-a-thon levels.
- Recycled In Space: Melancholia as an 8-bit style indie game, basically.
- Probably not intentional, but the game definitely has a Mother-like feel, with its childlike imagery but depressing plot.
- Title Drop: Sort of. In Mell's last level a creature asks Mell what she thinks babies dream of. Of course, the title of the game gives the answer.
- Wham Line: Several.
- "I know you're still dealing with the implications of the study, but you have an announcement to make."
- "We've gone over the results a hundred times. There's no chance of error."
- "What do you suppose our babies dream of, Mell? Before they open their eyes? Before they have any memory? What do they dream about?"
- "The world is falling apart."