Claustrophobia – Dream Factory [Hivemind Review]

Dream Factory is an online party game created by Claustrophobia in Moscow, Russia.

Dream Factory Communication Game title card, a star scape with a projector.

Format

Style of Play:

  • Online native experience (can NOT be played IRL)
  • Party game

Required Equipment: computer with internet connection

Recommended Team Size: 30 or so, pretty flexible

Play Time: 2 hours

Price: $675 per session for about 30-50 people

Booking: contact Claustrophobia to book a specific time slot

Description

This is an online party game played in Zoom. It feels like Cards Against Humanity and What do you Meme with a points structure.

Players are split into different teams, each representing a different production studio in Hollywood. Each round they use their accumulated resources to create the next blockbuster film. Teams meet in Zoom breakout rooms, determine what film to make, and the regroup to each pitch their new movie. A winning team is determined after each round, and after about 5 rounds of play, an overall winner is crowned.

Genre popularity chart with an assortment of genres and their corresponding popularity levels.

Hivemind Review Scale

REA's hivemind review scale - 3 is recommended anytime, 2 recommended in quarantine, 1 is not recommended.

Read more about our Hivemind Review format.

Brendan Lutz’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

The most important thing to know about Dream Factory is that it’s really designed for players to just have a fun time. While there is a competitive aspect to it, at least some of the scoring appears to be very subjective. In other words, don’t go into it with a mindset of “I need to win” and you’ll probably enjoy yourself.

Notice that I said “some of the scoring appears to be subjective.” This is an important callout because it’s really the biggest drawback of the game to me. To this day I honestly have no idea how this game is scored. Even after asking players from other teams, the most common reaction was: 🤷 . This is an unfortunate trap I see many large scale games fall into. The game is missing a steady player on-ramp to orient players. This means that it takes 2-3 rounds (of a 5-round game) before many players really understand what’s going on. An easy solution to this is to either start with a practice round or only have 1-2 variables in the first round.

In the end, though, having a chance to riff with friends and come up with ridiculous nonsensical movie pitches can be a laugh riot. Make sure you have the right group of players in the right mindset and you’ll have a great time.

Matthew Stein’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

There’s a decided dearth of quality puzzle games for large groups, and with good reason – it’s really hard to actively engage more than 6 people on a team. Claustrophobia’s Dream Factory megagame, which is not remotely puzzle-y and eludes reasonable categorization, was quite entertaining overall, but suffered from a lack of sufficient social scaffolding.

The game thrived in what was experientially low hanging fruit: simple creative prompts which led teams to deliver humorous film pitches to the larger group. While the minimalist constraints added in each round gave us plenty of creative freedom, the trajectory of gameplay felt under-designed. The most amusing part of the game for me was an adult-themed round, and while this led to hilarious punnery for a group of escape room enthusiasts, I’m not quite sure how they’d adapt it to be playable by a professional/ corporate audience. Moreover, there was just a lack of structure for teams’ breakout rooms. It was hard to find the right balance between strategizing against other teams and actually working on our film pitches, and with nine players on our team, I wish the game had provided mechanics to help equalize speaking time across team members, especially to make space for more introverted players.

The onboarding and framing also left room for improvement. The first few minutes of the game, with everyone in a giant Zoom call not yet sure what was going on, were rather awkward as we started to be inefficiently sorted onto teams before just jumping into a somewhat confusing presentation of the game rules. Perhaps something was lost in translation here, a problem which continued with certain important text on the web interface which hadn’t been translated from Russian. The end of the game also felt abrupt, and a space to debrief with other players before parting ways would have been nice.

Fro’s Reaction

Rating: 2 out of 3.

Once our teams settled into a groove, I had a lot of fun playing this game. The standout for me was getting to use party-game creativity, humor and lots of ad-libbing as we worked to create the next Hollywood blockbuster. Things got funny, I laughed a lot, and left smiling. There’s something here for both gamers and non-gamers.

On the downside, the funny and creative aspects that I enjoyed seemed to have little bearing on the ultimate outcome, and at times felt extraneous. The strategic aspect of play felt repetitive in the later rounds, and could have benefitted from a shakeup. I would have appreciated access to the onboarding/ rules document before and during the game, as the introduction was challenging. Finally, I questioned why the game needed to include so many players. I think it could easily be scaled to smaller groups, which would make it more accessible.

In the end, I’m happy I played, and I think this is a great option for those looking to spend some entertaining hours with a big group of friends.

Theresa Piazza’s Reaction

Rating: 1 out of 3.

REVIEW DISCLAIMER: I’ll preface this whole review saying that I have long disliked games that either allow for or encourage subjectivity to determine overall success. Games like Apples to Apples or What Do You Meme where you are as much trying to pick a card that is “best for the prompt” as one that “is best for the person subjectively determining the winner.”

Now that I’ve sufficiently cleared the air with my bias, and largely for the reason mentioned above, I didn’t love this game. I was definitely expecting a less subjective and more structured game like Global Domination. Claustrophobia’s onboarding and rule explaining for Dream Factory could use some polish and practice, likely indicative of this being a new game and they haven’t ironed out all the kinks in just yet. While these types of large format games always take a round or two for teams to find their footing, even at the end of gameplay I couldn’t really determine how scores were calculated, or what specific attributes were balanced against others. On the plus side, when compared to other online large-format games that have come out since the pandemic started, the interface in this game was great. It was clean, reactive, and worked well throughout the game. If you are looking for a large group party game alternative to Jackbox Games to connect with friends, and like judging each other’s work, this could be the game for you; it was just not the game for me.

David Spira’s Reaction

Rating: 3 out of 3.

Not only was Dream Factory not an escape game, it didn’t bear any resemblance to an escape game. It felt more like a party game, and I loved it.

The premise of pitching movies against other teams was a fantastic, non combative way to play a competitive game. Our group had a blast coming up with our movie titles and meeting the odd criteria that were thrown our way each round. One of my favorite things to do in party games is pitch insane ideas to the group, so the fact that this was a core mechanic made me really happy.

While I adored this game, there were some issues with it, all of which are fixable. They include:

  • Challenging on-boarding and rules explanations: The rules simply weren’t clear enough. It made the first few rounds a bit uncomfortable. Additionally, we were deep into the game before our team realized that the genre we selected determined our minimum investment in the film. That would have been helpful to know earlier.
  • Blind poker: There were mechanics to do market research, but they felt sort of like a game of blind poker or the battle of wits from the Princess Bride. We had information, but it wasn’t really all that helpful. We stopped using these mechanics and kept to pure guesswork, and honestly, that worked out better for us.
  • A lack of comeback mechanics: We found ourselves behind immediately, and the game didn’t have any meaningful way for us to truly claw our way out of the hole we were in.

A good measure of a party game is how much fun it is when you know that you cannot win. By that standard, this was a great game. When we realized we couldn’t win, we embraced it and had even more fun.

Disclosure: Claustrophobia provided the Hivemind reviewers with a complimentary play.

Leave a Reply

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