When I first saw screenshots of Hotline Miami, my first thought was "Boy, that sure looks like DreamWeb." DreamWeb? If you haven't heard of it, I'm not surprised — it came out in 1994 and as such, is ancient in gaming terms. Its content didn't exactly have small children in mind and that's probably why, on February 9, 1995, DreamWeb was refused classification in Australia.
The game was subsequently altered and resubmitted, with the new version being accredited an M rating on June 25 the same year with the supplementary descriptor "Medium level animated violence". This is the version I played and I've always wondered what exactly I missed out on. Not that I need to wonder any more, as the game was released as freeware via ScummVM late last month — a fact I was ignorant of until today.
Put simply, DreamWeb is one long mindscrew that takes place in a future cyberpunk setting. The player is Ryan, a bartender suffering from unsettling dreams. The game is certainly very dated, but if you don't mind the visuals of Hotline Miami, you'll have no issues with DreamWeb.
One of the game's most memorable aspects was the inclusion of a paper book entitled "Diary of a Madman". A cropped shot of the cover can be seen in the lead image, though surprisingly good quality PDFs of the book can be found online. Even if you don't plan on playing the game, it's a cracking read by itself.
Games really don't come with this sort of accompanying material these days, instead, we get wikis, ARGs and Facebook competitions to build a game's back story. Times have changed, I get that, but a part of me misses this attention to detail. Diary of a Madman says much of how invested the developers were emotionally — to go to the trouble of putting such a document together takes more than a cursory interest in what one is creating.
Dreamweb Released As Freeware [ScummVM]