Edgy, violent, gritty, confusing, moody... that's Dreamweb for you folks.
Ah... the infamous Dreamweb, a dark and gritty cyberpunk adventure game known for it's violent and sexually charged content. The game itself is definetively not as "disturbing" as some may lead you to believe, but it's still pretty powerful and makes for one very entertaining adventure game.
First of all you have the backbone of every adventure game: the story. In Dreamweb you play this lowly bartender Ryan who somehow has this psychic link to a group of guardians of some sort that watch over the Dreamweb. The Dreamweb is, to put it shortly, the thing that keeps us all alive and allows us to continue our putrid cyberpunkish lives, and some individuals have been syphoning it's power in an attempt to evolve into some sort of mystical form. These guys will destroy the Dreamweb if left unchecked so it's your job as appointed by these guardian dudes to go forth and kick ass in the name of the Dreamweb. And this is where the game starts to distances itself from the "average" adventure games, your objective in the game is quite simply to go and kill these guys, and the puzzles for the game all revolve around this sort of things, for instance: you'll have to journey to seedy bars to meet a gundealer and get yourself a gun, break into a penthouse or tv station to carry out a murder, etc... The plot will continue to move forward with each killing and eventually end up with an-all out battle against the head psycho behind everything and ultimately resolve itself with a very surprising (or not so really if you consider the game) ending, but the storyline makes the right decision and doesn't turn the whole affair into some heroic bullshit, instead each one of your actions takes a backseat to the grinding and all-encompassing reality of the gameworld never glorifying you or your quest. Essentially the whole game follows a very "zen" mentallity with every action leading you to the next logical solution, so there are few surprises in store for the storyline, as I mentioned the main attraction for the game is that of seeing the world that revolves around this story. Each subsequent murder will have it's consequences in the "real" world, and as you evade the cops and kiss your girlfriend goodnight you'll get to see the nice gameworld crafted by the guys at Empire much more as an actual character and the true protagonist of Dreamweb than Ryan or any of the other characters that populate it.
Truly these guys understand what Cyberpunk is all about, the game feels very very very close to the idea one gets of the world when reading Gibson novels, you know, that of a world that has attained near technological perfection, but that perfection itself has also corroded the very fabric of human nature and left the land with as much giant skycrapers as well as hollow industrial wastelands and murky gettos. Yeah, you get all that in Dreamweb. From the carefully constructed gameworld that merges giant and antiseptyc corporate structures with the rundown hotels and shady bars left behind in the wake of the information revolution, to the eternal rainy nights that plague the city and it's fusion of blocky gray architecture and neon signs.
Of course, no praise of Dreamweb's world would be complete without a mention to the excellent synthetized music. The collection of moody sounds and eery Vangelis-like cues bring the world alive and almost make you feel like watching Blade Runner all over again, except on Dreamweb somehow it sounds even more apocalyptic and loses that saxophoned "Noir" vibe you got on Blade Runner.
Oh yeah, and you also have some brutal (if pixelated) violence to enhance the "in yo face" attitude and some of the first actual sexual content in a videogame (i´m talking about fornication and actual genitals here, not just some sexy remarks and bouncing boobies) product of that wave of "adult-ness" that surfaced with the multimedia revolution. Sure, for the most part it's just there for shock effect, but it's still another exciting part of the dark world of Dreamweb that paints it as even more decadent and disturbing.
The ambience in Dreamweb is also enhaced by the fact that there's lots of stuff you can interact with, from your computer to the lightswitch in the hotel room, and you can pick up everything from that rusty pipe over there to that bible or soda can in the floor. Cool isn't it? Well unfortunately this doesn't work in the context of an adventure game, because the end result is that you have a gazillion red herrings that have absolutely no use whatsoever. Furthermore the puzzles themselves are not always clear (you'll be surprised how often the "solution" to a puzzle is just shooting someone's ass) and if you mix both factors you get a rather confusing game that isn't really hard or long, but is... confusing!
Besides why the waste of time and space in drawing all those soda cans if they have no use in the game?? tsk, tsk...
Anyway, save for that there's the fact that the graphics aren't that nice really. You have a top-down perspective which I believe works for the game since it places the spotlight in the gameworld instead of the characters (and we know which one of the two is the star here), but the play area is horribly small, and the addition of a "zoom" window is just a sorry excuse to cover the fact that the play area is horribly small and pixellated. Furthermore the proportions for the characters don't always match up and they can end up feeling rather amateurish and cartoony, just look at the screenshot of the pool in the penthouse suite to see what I mean.
The Bottom Line
Despite some graphical problems and some confusing adventure design this is one hell of an experience. Truly one of those oddball "experimental" adventure games like Loom or Bad Mojo that just has to be played for the sole purpose of soaking in on all of it's vibes.