Regular readers of Geeky Hobbies will know that I am a big fan of puzzle games. When I first saw Sweet Dreams Alex I was quite intrigued. From the cute and charming premise to the intriguing gameplay, I was excited to see what the game had to offer. Sweet Dreams Alex is a truly unique and fun puzzle game unlike any that I have played in quite some time.
In Sweet Dreams Alex you play as a Dream Builder. Alex and her family recently moved to a new home. Things are scary for Alex as so many things have changed. This has lead to nightmares haunting her dreams. As her Dream Builder you are responsible for keeping the nightmares away until she wakes in the morning. As you progress through the game you will get glimpses into Alex’s life as well as her family as they adjust to their new life.
I have played a lot of puzzle games over the years. I can’t recall ever playing one quite like Sweet Dreams Alex. In a way the game feels like a puzzle game meets a tower defense game. Most of my favorite tower defense games involve creating a large maze in order to waste the enemies time as you slowly defeat them. In a way this is exactly what Sweet Dreams Alex is without actually attacking the enemies. You basically have to waste 60 seconds of the enemies’ time in each level to prevent them from reaching Alex. This almost always involves making a maze or the longest possible path for the enemies to reach their destination.
In the first set of levels you will place boxes. You will use these to create paths that the nightmares have to follow before they reach Alex. Each set of subsequent levels utilize different mechanics, but they basically all boil down to making an extended path that the enemies need to follow. In the second set of levels you use crosswalks along with stop and go lights to direct the nightmares away from Alex. In the third set of levels you use various playground equipment to make a path across gaps in the world. The fourth set of levels involve placing shops arranged in Tetris-style shapes. This is just some of the sets of levels as there are others as well.
I have played a lot of different puzzle games, and I can’t recall one quite like Sweet Dreams Alex. The gameplay premise is quite straightforward. You are basically creating a sort of maze in each of the levels. You need to create the longest possible path to force the nightmares to take a long winding path. Sometimes this is a literal maze. Other times you force an enemy to take a path that goes out of their way in order to open up a path forward.
The gameplay is quite straightforward. You just pick which obstacle you want to place, and then choose a spot on the gameboard to place it. Once you have placed all of the obstacles you want, you start the timer and hope it runs out before the nightmares reach Alex. If you fail to hold them off long enough, you can edit your layout and try again. The gameplay likely won’t appeal to everyone, but I really enjoyed it. The game finds the right balance between being really easy to play while being much deeper than you might initially expect. You will feel a sense of accomplishment when you create a intricate maze that wastes enough time to beat the level.
I think one of the main reasons why the gameplay works so well is that the level design is quite good. Most of the levels give you a pretty wide open area to work with. There are some obstacles in the way that you need to work around. You also need to leave open at least one path for them to reach Alex. Some of the levels are quite easy where you will easily be able to delay the nightmares long enough to be successful. Most require you to have a good plan in place to delay them though. Sometimes you have a limited number of objects that you can use. Other levels give you infinite objects and let you place whatever you want.
With how many of the levels are designed, you are mostly free to do whatever you want. Usually there isn’t one set way to complete a level. There is flexibility in how you create your maze to waste the nightmares’ time. I really appreciate this as it adds flexibility to the game. This allows you to approach the levels in your own unique way. There is obviously some guidelines in place, but you are mostly free to do things your own way. Two players may handle the situation in different ways.
On top of this I appreciate that Sweet Dreams Alex actually keeps the gameplay fresh by adding in new mechanics. Instead of using the same mechanics over and over again, the game refreshes itself with each new set of levels. Each set of levels have their own unique mechanics. While these have some things in common, they do play quite a bit differently as well. Each set of levels require you to approach them in different ways. This keeps the game fresh while forcing you to approach it in different ways. I really appreciated the variety this added to the game.
As for Sweet Dreams Alex’s difficulty, it kind of depends. The first ten to twenty levels for each set of levels are usually quite easy. This is probably due to teaching and reinforcing new mechanics. As you progress through the levels of each section, things get more difficult. Some of the later levels can be quite difficult. Some require you to approach the level in a specific way. If you can’t figure out the catch to the level, it will take you quite a while to solve it. Some of the levels require some trial and error as you see how your current plan is working. A lot of this is due to some of the mechanics being a little harder to work with than others.
Basically you will get a pretty wide range of difficulty in Sweet Dreams Alex. The good news is that you don’t have to complete all of the levels in order. Once you have completed enough levels in a section, you unlock the next set of levels. You can start working on these levels before you go back to some of the levels that you were having more trouble with. Some of the levels can be kind of frustrating as you need a pretty specific solution to solve them. When a level is starting to annoy you, you can move onto a different level and come back to the frustrating level at a different time.
While there is a lot of things that I liked about Sweet Dreams Alex, there is one issue that holds the game back a little. Sweet Dreams Alex is a fun game, but it is the type of game that you are going to want to play in shorter doses. For this review I ended up playing some extended sessions in order to get through the game quicker. I would recommend against doing this. After an hour or so playing the game it tends to drag on. While the levels are different, the mechanics for the levels don’t change much. Therefore the game feels a little samey if you play it for long extended periods of time.
Instead I would highly recommend playing in short doses. I would recommend playing a couple puzzles each day for like 30 minutes to an hour. This keeps the gameplay fresh. With the game’s overall feel this works as well. Sweet Dreams Alex is the type of game that you just want to sit back and enjoy without having to put too much thought into what you are doing. I could see it being a great game to start your day or wind down with after a long day.
The game’s story and graphics really play off this laid back feeling. The game uses a pixel style which I think really works for the game. The artwork is cute/charming. The story is told through a diary. Every few levels there is a diary placed into the level. If you click on it, it opens up a diary entry. These entries are written by Alex, her mother and father. Most of these entries are cute little stories about what the family did that day. These stories are quite cute and charming. The story and visual style really fit the game and make for a charming laid back game that most people will really enjoy.
Along with everything else that I liked about Sweet Dreams Alex, the game has a ton of content as well. The game has six different worlds with each having its own unique mechanics that you have to work with. Most of the worlds have around 40 or so levels. In total the game has around 250 levels. Some of these levels only take a couple minutes. Others can take 30+ minutes if you have trouble figuring out how to solve them. Simply put if you have any interest in the game’s premise, you will easily get your money’s worth out of the game.
On top of the levels included in the game, the game also has a level editor. You can create your own levels and share them with your friends. I didn’t really delve into this aspect of the game as I wouldn’t consider myself much of a level creator. This aspect of the game has a lot of potential though as it could add a lot of content to the game if players end up creating their own levels.
I was intrigued when I first saw Sweet Dreams Alex and I was not disappointed. The game probably won’t be for everyone, but fans of puzzle games should really enjoy their time with the game. In essence you have to create different types of mazes in order to waste time as the nightmares traverse them. Each set of levels have different ways of accomplishing this. The mechanics are quite unique for a puzzle game as it is much more common in tower defense games. The level design is really good forcing you to think outside of the box, while also giving you a lot of freedom to approach the level in your own way. The game also has a ton of content where you will easily get your money’s worth if the game’s premise intrigues you.
The biggest issue I had with Sweet Dreams Alex is just that it is better in shorter doses. It will get a little repetitive if you play it for hours at a time. I personally would recommend playing for around 30 minutes to an hour for a nice break where you can just relax. The game’s difficulty can also be a little up and down. Some levels can be quite easy while others are quite difficult. The game is usually pretty flexible where you can move between different sets of levels when you get stumped.
My recommendation for Sweet Dreams Alex basically comes down to your thoughts toward the premise. If creating mazes for enemies to traverse doesn’t sound all that interesting to you, Sweet Dreams Alex probably won’t be for you. If you like puzzle games though and the premise sounds at least somewhat interesting, I think you will really enjoy Sweet Dreams Alex and should really consider picking it up.
Sweet Dreams Alex
Release Date: October 5th, 2023 | Systems: Linux, Mac, PC
Developer: Clarity Games | Publisher: Kasedo Games | ESRB Rating: Not Rated
Genres: Casual, Indie, Puzzle
- A unique twist on your typical puzzle game.
- Clever puzzle design and mechanics that give players a lot of freedom.
- Better in shorter doses as it otherwise can get a little repetitive.
- Some of the levels are really easy while others are quite challenging.
Recommendation: For fans of puzzle games that find the premise interesting.
Where to Purchase: Steam
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Clarity Games and Kasedo Games for the review copy of Sweet Dreams Alex used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.