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Video Game / Dare to Dream

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"Tyler had created his own Death-like character, a personification of his nightmares. He trudged ahead into what would be the loss of his youth, the instant where innocence is lost and adulthood is entered.
Tyler was entering Hell."

Developed for Windows 3.1 running with 16 colours, and written in Visual Basic 1.0, Dare To Dream was one of Epic Megagames' first games released for Windows, divided into three episodes. They were:

  • In a Darkened Room
  • In Search of the Beast
  • Christian's Lair

This Adventure Game takes the player inside the mind of the 10-year-old character, Tyler Norris, whose inability to cope with the death of his father has brought something evil to life in the depths of his troubled psyche. Through the powers of a magic key, Tyler transports himself into the world of his dreams, to confront his dark side before it destroys him.

Of course, this results in a rather surreal style for the game as a whole (well, as surreal as you can get with a fixed 16-colour palette) and many of the puzzles are counter-intuitive. On the up side, there's no way to die or make the game Unwinnable. Forget an item? Just go back and get it.

Like most PC games from the 16-bit era, it doesn't run on modern computers without something like DOSBox.

This game contains examples of:

  • All There in the Manual: Some things about the games aren't evident just from playing them. For instance, all you see of Rennis is a pair of glowing eyes through a skull's eye socket. You might never guess he's supposed to be a rat unless you had the game's official hintbook with profiles for all the characters.
  • Artistic License – History: The Key of Enigami, a magical gold key topped with a ceramic unicorn, is supposedly an ancient North American Indian artifact. This is in spite of the facts that unicorns did not exist in their mythology, gold wasn't commonly used for much of anything, and the name sounds more like Japanese than a Native American language. While the game justifies some of its more outlandish events with the All Just a Dream conceit, the key is one of the few things that's supposed to exist in the real world.
  • Ash Face: At one point in the first episode, Tyler shoots a surly bartender with a shotgun, and he looks like this in the aftermath.
  • Balloonacy: After filling a balloon with helium, Tyler's able to use it to float all the way to the roof of a building.
  • Bag of Spilling: Tyler loses all his inventory at the end of the first episode (that is, when he wakes up). He deliberately throws away everything except the magic key at the end of the second episode before entering the dark side of his mind.
  • Bat Out of Hell: There's a monster bat in the first episode Tyler's afraid will attack him. He has to find some way to deal with it before he's brave enough to do anything its room.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: The first episode is a nightmare playing out, but the other two are Tyler directly entering his mental landscape to confront his darker urges.
  • Being Watched: After escaping from his dream in the first episode Tyler can't get back to sleep, having "the horrible feeling of being watched".
  • Bland-Name Product: "Spud Lite" in Bouf's Bar.
  • By the Lights of Their Eyes: Sometimes dark doorways show the eyes of someone looking back at Tyler, even thought there's absolutely no-one there when he goes through.
  • Cat/Dog Dichotomy: Barth and Jazz, a cat and a dog met in the second episode. Arch-enemies locked in a Mexican Standoff for the duration of the episode.
  • Catapult Nightmare: When Tyler wakes up from his weird dream at the end of Part 1.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: After a mundane-yet-surreal episode 1 and a goofy-cartoony episode 2, episode 3 sends Tyler to Hell itself, with spooky forests and cemeteries full of bones and blood. The earlier goofiness is quite forgotten.
  • Cold Flames: The third episode has a pillar of blue fire that actually freezes water you hold close to it.
  • Company Cross References: Assorted plugs appear throughout the game for Jill of the Jungle, Zone 66, Palace of Deceit: Dragon's Plight, and other games from "number uno shareware game company" Epic Megagames.
  • Cool Key: The Key of Enigami, which is worked into the shape of a unicorn and can turn an ordinary door into a portal to the user's mental landscape.
  • Difficulty Level: The first episode has a choice of playing in normal mode, or an easy mode, where some of the weirder things the player has to do are already taken care of.
  • Dream Land: As you might gather from the title, the entire game takes place in Tyler's dreams — the first episode literally, the last two in a much more mystical sense thanks to the Key of Enigami, which opens a portal into his mental landscape.
  • Due to the Dead: Solving one puzzle in the third episode involves giving a dead soldier his last rites.
  • Empty Room Psych: There are some areas that seem like they should be relevant, but have no purpose. One's in the second episode, a statue garden with a likeness of Bouf, a character from the first episode, and a sad turtle that otherwise doesn't appear, and who seems to be looking at something on the ground. Seems like a place you're supposed to do something, but really just there to fill space.
  • Food as Bribe: There are a couple characters, like Prince the shark and Enthius the skeletal snake, who give access to an important item when bestowed some kind of food.
  • Foreshadowing: The "Story so far" of episode 1 has Tyler's mother say that Terry is "not exactly" Tyler's best friend, and the episode ends with the realization that they're having a Shared Dream. Throughout the game, Terry doesn't appear anywhere other characters can see him, or do anything Tyler doesn't know about. Turns out that Terry is Tyler's Imaginary Friend, much the same way that Christian is his Imaginary Enemy.
  • Funetik Aksent:
    • Boris Gershman, the Russian mouse from the second installment, has his dialogue written like this to reflect his humorous accent.
    • The Bloody Stump is written as if he has a Scottish accent. Which is...unexpected, to say the least, for a talking tree in the depths of Hell.
  • Ghost Ship: Two of them are visible on top of a hill in the third episode. They're just scenery, though.
  • Gratuitous Princess: Lissa, a girl who lives in a cardboard castle in the happy part of Tyler's imagination. She sees Tyler as a Knight In Shining Armour who'll slay the "dragon", his evil split personality.
  • Guide Dang It!: A lot of the game's puzzles can't be reasoned out, and require the player to just try everything and go over every pixel until they find something that advances the game. Like using a dead fish to unlock a door elsewhere on the game's map, or thinking to use a shotgun on a boat's porthole to make an item you aren't told about go shooting out of its smokestack. Or perhaps the piece de resistance, that you're supposed to pick up a skull, go back and throw it through a window, pick up the glass shards, and use them to cut a flower, which you then hold up to turn a menacing bat to stone. While this can be excused with the explanation that the game takes place inside a young boy's imagination, it doesn't make the experience of actually playing the game better.
  • Horns of Villainy: Big Bad Christian, when he is finally encountered, is a horned skeletal thing.
  • Hypnotic Eyes: The second and third episodes both have an obstacle where Tyler's paralyzed by a statue with hypnotic eyes he can't pass, until he finds a way of neutralizing its gaze.
  • Imaginary Friend: Tyler's best friend Terry isn't real; he's actually the benign counterpart of Christian, the game's Big Bad.
  • Incredible Shrinking Man: Getting to several locations in the second episode involving using pills from a prescription bottle to shrink, allowing access to new areas.
  • Innocence Lost: The intro for the third episode from Tyler's psychiatrist describes this as happening in the game, where he has to confront his darkest thoughts. The ending reinforces this, saying Tyler's grown past needing the mental constructs of his issues featured in the game.
  • The Lost Woods: The third episode, appropriately set in Tyler's personal Hell, has a tree maze that's easy to get lost in, but has an important puzzle at the end.
  • Mental World: The first installment is just comprised of making your way through a weird dream, but the second and third involve journeys through the light and dark parts of Tyler's imagination. The first side encountered is bright and cheerful, and looks like a Saturday morning cartoon full of Funny Animal characters. The other is Tyler's personal hell, with the landscapes representing negative emotions, and some of the inventory items representing something Tyler hates dealing with in real life.
  • Mexican Standoff: Seen in the barn in episode two. Barth the cat has his shotgun trained on Jazz the dog, who's poised to drop a 1-ton weight on Barth.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: The Key of Enigami, the Plot Device that opens doors into Dream Lands, is also used in the ending to destroy the Big Bad. It's made clear that Tyler knew it could be used this way, but where he got the information is a total mystery, especially since it wasn't mentioned at all until it happened.
  • Nothing but Skulls: Some areas in the third installment, like the front gates or the banks of the River of Sorrow, are covered in piles of skulls.
  • Palate Propping: One location that needs to be visited in the second episode is the inside of a tree with a face. Tyler won't do so until he finds something to wedge its mouth open, since he's afraid of it closing and trapping him inside.
  • Pixel Hunt:
    • The first game has a pile of skulls in a strange windmill. You need to pick up one of them to solve another puzzle, but you can't just click the pile and take one, you have to mouse around in the pile until the cursor changes to indicate that you're hovering over the right specific otherwise-unmarked skull.
    • A vital location in episode 2 has no visible path leading to it; you just need to happen to mouse over the northwest corner of a certain screen and notice that it changes to the "exit" arrow.
    • There's a pile of dust on the first screen of Episode 3 that you need to pick up. It is completely invisible and the only way you'll find it is if you happen to mouse over that spot and see your cursor change to indicate an interactable object.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: The shock of Tyler's father dying causes him to repress all his negative emotions, which form into an evil personality unto itself inside Tyler's mind, who he has to confront before it can destroy him.
  • Product Placement: A key found in the second episode has a Treasure Troll doll on the keyring, those having been really big around the time the game was made.
  • Punny Name: With the game taking place entirely in the imagination of a young boy, there's some of this. Like Bonehead and his brother Cementhead, who are a bone with eyes and a chunk of cement with a face.
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: The third episode's color palette, the one where he descends into his personal hell, is mostly red with lots of dark blues and blacks.
  • Repression Never Ends Well: Tyler's psychologist discerns that showing no negative emotions despite the death of his beloved father is a severe tendency of repression, until all of those bottled up negative emotions coalesced into an entirely separate, entirely evil personality taking root in his mind.
  • Scary Skeleton: Some are encountered in the hell of the last episode, like Enthius the snake and Christian himself. Fortunately some, like the villain's pet dragon, are skeletons, but stay dead.
  • Sequel Hook: The series goes out on saying Tyler kept the magic key, "in case he ever has to Dare to Dream once more!"
  • Sewer Gator: Tyler meets a friendly one named Sarsippus while traversing some sewer tunnels. Who inexplicably also supplies a commercial plug for some other Epic Games releases.
  • Shared Dream: Towards the end of episode 1, Tyler finds his best friend Terry in his dream — though Terry claims it's his dream, not Tyler's. It's never directly followed up upon, but Terry actually being Tyler's Imaginary Friend handily explains it.
  • Sssssnake Talk: Enthius, a skeletonized snake, talks with drawn out s's in his dialogue.
  • Talking Animal: A lot of the characters in Tyler's imagination are seemingly-ordinary animals that talk, tying into the game's theme of Tyler growing out of the fixtures of his childhood. Like cartoons with talking animals.
  • Things That Go "Bump" in the Night: The final visual of the first episode is a pair of glowing monster eyes under Tyler's bed.
  • Threatening Shark: Inverted with Prince, who's cordial to Tyler. And who gives him the magic key after being placated with a tasty fish.
  • The Trees Have Faces: Both the second and third episodes are full of forests where all the trees have faces. They're cutesy in the second one, but scary in the third, which reveals they even have blood when Tyler meets a talking stump whose ragged top is still marred red.
  • Title Drop: In the ending. Tyler's psychiatrist mentions how "rumors abound" that he still has the magic key somewhere, "in case he ever has to dare to dream again!"
  • Try Everything: Episode 1's tutorial tells you that if you're lost, you should just try anything you can think of — since you can't die or get stuck, there's no "wrong" answers to worry about.
  • Unwinnable: Completely averted. The game's designed so that the player will only get stuck in the sense that they haven't found an important item or figure out a puzzle yet.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Episode 1 contains some symbolism suggesting that Tyler might think of himself as The Antichrist or otherwise hated by God, but episodes 2 and 3 never follow up on this, focusing instead on his repressed grief.
  • You Shouldn't Know This Already: There are some things the player can't find or take until a certain character tells him they're there, or gives him their permission. Even though all of this is happening inside his mind.