Dream Study #114 [Review]

🎵 All I have to do is dream… 🎵

Location:  Los Angeles, CA

Date Played: December 9, 2018

Team size: Variable depending on the time slot. (The event had timed entry, but attendees could continue playing or just hang out until the end of the night.)

Duration: 60 minutes

Price: $30 per ticket (limited run ended in December 2018)

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

Dream Study #114 was an immersive theater piece with puzzle elements set in a relaxed bar environment. It didn’t deliver the full experience of immersive theater or escape rooms: the puzzles were simple, and there were only a few scripted scenes during each hour. The option to interact with actors, however, offered extra adventure for players who wanted to get more involved in story than the average escape room allows. The experience was uneven and unstructured at times, but Dream Study #114 showed that mixing these genres has a lot of potential.

Ultimately, Dream Study #114 felt like hanging out at a bar with some bonus theatrical and puzzle elements, which is a fun time as long as showgoers know what to expect. We’d love to see more hybrid events like this experimenting with form.

In-game: A busy bar lit red.

Who is this for?

  • Immersive theater fans
  • People who enjoy interacting with actors
  • Casual puzzlers

Why play?

  • Hybrid show with puzzle and immersive theater elements
  • A unique night out at a bar
  • Victory drink ticket

Story

The psychologist Dr. Rose Hallard had invited us to take part in an experiment where we would enter an important “dream memory” of hers from 1983. Our goal was to solve the mysteries planted in her mind to influence a major scientific breakthrough. 

In-game: A poster telling the reader to "Unlock the power of your dreams." It has a trippy image of heads within heads.

Setting

Dream Study #114 took place at an actual bar peppered with props and puzzles related to Rose’s memories. The set felt like a regular working bar with some added effects. Theatrical scenes occurred at timed intervals throughout the evening. Participants could buy drinks, chat in between scenes, and solve the related puzzles at their leisure. 

In-game: A lamp illuminating a couch with a newspaper.

Gameplay

Dream Study #114 was part immersive theater production and part escape room. Upon arrival, we each chose one of two tracks, each of which involved solving a different set of puzzles scattered around the bar. Upon completing the puzzles, we entered the resulting solution into a mysterious device to learn how the story ended.

Both tracks in Dream Study #114 included simple puzzles that revolved around observation and making connections.

In-game: an old radio device lit blue and glowing.

Analysis

➕ The bar was a perfect setting for an immersive theater/puzzle hybrid event. It felt slightly surreal to get a clue from a bartender who wasn’t part of the cast, or to hear an actor refer to a drink on that night’s menu. Putting on a show at an actual bar risked red herrings, but the puzzle flow was clear enough that this wasn’t an issue.

➕/➖ The theatrical scenes, puzzles, props, costumes, music, and even the video playing on the TV behind the bar were all related to the dream study theme. We could tell a lot of thought went into these details. However, the truly dreamlike occurrences were few and far between. We would have loved to see more uncanny or unsettling moments.

➖ Each track had us start out by locating a character, with no guidance on how to do so. For one track, it took half an hour before the person we were looking for appeared. This caused some of us to spend half of our time wandering around looking for things to do. It also created a bottleneck once that character was available.

➖ The idea of having two tracks was intriguing, but the experiences were uneven. One track had a simpler goal and puzzles and (we realized later) required no actor interaction. The other track revealed more backstory and drama and had more interesting puzzle components. We would have had more fun comparing notes afterward if we had equally engaging experiences to share.

➕ The final interaction felt momentous. We felt like the heroes no matter which track we had played.

➖ Because there were 12 people per time slot (in addition to the players still hanging around from previous time slots), the characters and props were in high demand. This sometimes caused bottlenecks, particularly towards the end of the hour. Also, important props tended to meander around the bar, which made solving difficult. Having a gamemaster dedicated to wrangling puzzle components would have alleviated this problem.

➕/➖ A drink ticket was provided to each player at the end of their track, which added to our feeling of triumph. However, we would have preferred to get a drink ticket at the beginning of the evening while we were settling in. This would also ensure that everyone got their money’s worth whether or not they finished their track.

➖ Before entering the event, we were asked to answer a question to determine our track. The question seemed unrelated to the evening except that it broke us up into teams. If we’d been asked a more introspective question, or if we’d chosen a side once we knew a bit more about the story, we would have felt more immersed in the show and invested in the outcome.

➖ We were told up front to be careful who we trusted, which gave us the impression that we shouldn’t help each other out. This initially led us to be cautious about revealing our missions and progress in the game. Once we decided to socialize more and team up with other guests, we had more fun. This felt like a mismatch between story and gameplay.

➕ We appreciated that the event space and the lack of time limit meant we could stay at the venue after the show. It was the ideal place to rehash our experience—the venue where it happened.

Tips For Visiting

Dream Study #114 had a limited run and is no longer playing. The venue and other details may change if it is revived in another form.

This experience had live actors, though interaction was not required. (Review our tips for playing with actors.) For shows like Dream Study #114, it adds to the experience if you enjoy speaking with actors, but you can just as easily sit back and watch others interact.

Dream Study #114 took place in November and December 2018 and is not currently running.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.