Now, let’s be clear; while it’s disappointing that Sonic Team hasn’t found any inspiration in the last decade to take the core Nights gameplay to a new dimension, the flight can still be very enjoyable. Once you’ve grasped the controls, looping and dashing in, through and around the hoops can be exhilarating, and there are sequences – like a chase through a dream-world theme park – where the game feels brimming with promise. Masks, which give Nights the ability to transform and swim underwater or ignore winds, are a nice addition, and some levels incorporate some strong ideas. If Journey of Dreams had concentrated on the flying sections, we might still have wished for something more innovative, but at least we’d have a Nights sequel that kept the faithful happy.
Instead, we have one that seemingly goes out of its way to spoil things for you. Some of it comes down just to characterisation – the original game also had a boy hero and a girl heroine who connected up with Nights in the world of dreams, but the new recruits, their voices and their plotlines are so hideously twee that anyone above the age of eight will gag. This might not be such an issue if only the game were not so jam-packed with endless and frequently unskippable cut-scenes. Worst of all, Nights him/her/it-self has changed, developing a preppy female voice and an irritating persona that instantly removes that air of mystery. Anyone, from six to sixty, can play Super Mario Galaxy and get won over by the game’s sheer charm. Nights: Journey of Dreams, is not a game that you, as a grown adult, want to play.
Still, it’s a good game for the kids, right? Wrong. There are structural issues at work here, too. Basically, you play through the main story from the perspectives of the two children, playing first as one and then the other through three dream worlds apiece, then meeting up for a final showdown. Each world is split into five missions, and this is where things go rapidly downhill. A world begins with a sequence where Nights must chase three flying villains to get three keys to unlock three prisons, then beat a boss battle. The boss battles are good looking and actually packed with nice ideas, but at the same time they can be, initially, very confusing. What then makes them irritating is that, should you fail them – often because you simply can’t work out what convoluted sequence of steps you’re meant to manage within a strict time limit – you then have to repeat not just them, but the whole preceding chase sequence as well.