Dreaming Sarah is a platform-adventure game for the Nintendo Switch. It follows our protagonist Sarah through a dream-like state as she uncovers what happened to her in real life. It’s a surreal trip, with some decent platforming and puzzle elements to keep you motivated along the way.
From the outset, it’s clear that this is set in a very strange world. Anything involving the subconscious is likely to err on the side of oddness, and Dreaming Sarah delivers on that front. You begin your journey in a forest, soon traversing to areas I can barely describe, like the inside of a clock or the inside of a mouth. Even places that seem normal at first – like a desert – soon show their true colors when a random pirate laughs at you for getting lost. Why is a pirate even in the desert?
Your initial abilities are typical of the platforming genre, with Sarah walking and jumping while she explores. Along the way, you discover items that grant extra moves. This becomes the aim of the game, with each ability unlocking entry to a new area. For example, the umbrella allows Sarah to reach further by gently floating after jumping, à la Princess Peach; the magnifying glass shrinks her to a size small enough to fit through tiny gaps, à la Mini Mario; and special glasses reveal hidden objects, though I don’t seem to have a Mario equivalent for that item. The important thing is that each item is fun to discover and genuinely expands the gameplay.
Speaking of gameplay, the developers have done a great job. It’s important for a game that relies mostly on platforming elements to get the simple things right, like jumping. Thankfully, this is done well. There are even some brain-scratching puzzle elements involved, making it reminiscent of Shantae’s smooth style. I also like the way you choose your extra moves via a pop-up ring system, which itself reminds me of a classic Square Enix RPG.
A game set in someone’s mind needs to set a particular tone, and this is pulled off nicely with the audio and visuals. The eerie music is coupled with a slightly upbeat tempo that somehow maintains a relaxing mood overall. It’s very well done, and it changes in each area. The visuals are equally great, with a 16-bit pixel-art aesthetic. Some scenes use just enough color to draw your eye, while others pop off the screen with their vibrance. It keeps the whole thing feeling fresh.
There are a few minor issues that stop Dreaming Sarah from being perfect. It’s not particularly difficult or long, meaning it can easily be finished in a couple of hours. Given the low price tag, this isn’t a huge downside. Conversely, there are some moments of frustration when it’s unclear where to go next. All I can say is, try a leap of faith! You can’t die in this dream world – in fact, there are no lives, hearts, or health bars. If you do misstep – which is rare – you simply respawn on the last platform. This helps make the journey more enjoyable and relaxing, and less frustrating.
The only other issue I noticed was the lack of achievements. The Steam version came with a list of extra achievements that appear to be absent on the Switch version. This is a shame, as it would add longevity and a little extra fun to an already great game.
Overall, Dreaming Sarah is an intriguing platformer. The surreal world is fun to explore, all wrapped in great pixel art and an excellent soundtrack. There’s plenty of variety in the gameplay with extra moves to unlock and some devilish puzzles to solve. Despite its short length, it’s worth checking out if you’re after something different yet memorable in the genre.