Check out VideoGamer.com's NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams Video Review.
According to the internet, flying dreams mean one of three things. If you're flying with ease and having a whale of a time then you're doing well in real life - you're on top of things. If your flying dream is a bit like riding the passenger seat with those weirdoes from the reality driving test show, then that means you're struggling to control your own life and may have encountered obstacles that are holding you back. And finally, if you feel afraid when you're flying, then that means you're scared of making a success of your life and have issues with facing up to life's difficulties. Interesting eh?
More interesting perhaps is working out what category of flying dream NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams, the follow up to 1996's SEGA Saturn classic NiGHTS into Dreams, falls into. Well, it's certainly not the fear one, since the game world Sonic Team's Takashi Iizuka has created is so bubbly, so fantastical, carries so little threat and is so easy to play that no-one in their right mind could find it scary. Silent Hill NiGHTS is not.
So, determining what kind of dream NiGHTS is boils down to whether or not you feel in control of your flight, which, suitably, depends on what controller set-up you use to play the game.
Playing NiGHTS with the Wii Remote is rubbish. Let's just let that loose early. Here you guide NiGHTS around by pointing the Wii Remote at the screen and moving what's called the Mindsight, a small circle that directs where you want him to go. The level of control here is poor to say the least, and often extremely frustrating. The Owl, your guide throughout the game, says early on that you might not want to play the game with the Mindsight because it's pretty advanced. Well it's not advanced, it's just pointless.
And it's pointless because you can alternatively control movement with the control stick of the Nunchuk, Classic Controller or GameCube pad, all of which give you a much better level of control. With Mindsight on you'll be banging you head against the TV trying to get NiGHTS to do a Paraloop - created when you form a circle with loop the loops. But with a control stick you'll be able to direct NiGHTS' movement just like Cristiano Ronaldo caresses a football.
If you're anything like me you'll give Mindsight a shot during the opening tutorial in the Dream Gate - the game's main hub from which you can enter the various Nightopias, or dream worlds - and then never try it again. This would be a criticism of the game if using Mindsight was the only way to play NiGHTS. But since every Wii owner will have a Nunchuk, we'll just say it's a tacked-on way of using the motion sensing technology and leave it there.
So, it looks like we've determined what kind of flying dream NiGHTS is - the one where you're at perfect ease. But this analogy doesn't paint an entirely accurate picture. NiGHTS is an enchanting, enjoyable, almost therapeutic game for two missions per Nightopia. But for the other three missions it's at best average and at worst frustrating.
Journey of Dreams sees you control one of two playable characters, Will Taylor, a 12-year-old aspiring footballer who has issues with his absent father, and Helen Cartwright, a 12-year-old violinist who prefers to spend time eating ice cream and shopping with her friends than playing with her mother. When they fall asleep Will and Helen enter the Night Dimension. There they are charged with "Dualising" with NiGHTS and saving Nightopia from the impressively designed bad guy Wizeman, his right-hand man Reala, NiGHTS' version of Shadow the Hedgehog, and the entire Nightmaren force.
Despite some phoney British accents (Will and Helen are from an alternative London but I'm sure they've spent time in the US), both kids are quite likeable in a childlike wonderment kind of way. It's like a less good version of entrancing Japanese animated movie Spirited Away, which is no bad thing. The problem isn't with them; it's with what the game has you do with them.
Each Nightopia is divided up into five missions. The first is a classic Saturn NiGHTS chase mission - here you guide NiGHTS around a linear course as he flies through rings, collects blue chips and tries to touch a key-carrying bird before the time-limit runs up. You've got a few simple special moves at your disposal to help. The Drill Dash gives you a speed boost and also smashes through destructible objects; the Paraloop, mentioned above, which causes a vacuum that sucks in blue chips and captures Nightopians and Nightmarens; and Personas, masks which allow NiGHTS to transform into a dolphin, a rocket and a dragon, each granting specific powers. You grab the key three times, effectively giving each chase mission three different courses within the same gorgeous and colourful environment. Depending on your speed and skill, you'll get a grade at the end of the three course mission - from A to E.
The chase missions are by far the best thing about the game. Played with an analogue stick they're a joy to fly through. Trying to guide NiGHTS at top speed through ring after ring, collecting blue chip after blue chip and keeping your Link count going (leave longer than a second between ring or chip and you'll break the link) is as enjoyable an experience as any on the console, and certainly does the original NiGHTS justice.
You've got some nice switch-ups in play too where the perspective changes, say to directly behind NiGHTS rather than facing his side, as well as a couple of sweet little touches, like having to guide NiGHTS through rings via a reflection of himself in a massive mirror and triggering musical notes in time to a song, which will have you feeling all warm inside. But the bottom line is these missions are gaming at its purist - Sonic in the sky, as the fanboys always said.
But what isn't fun are the other missions, which see you control Will and Helen in frustrating time attack platforming levels. These are as horrible to play as the knock-off third-party platformers everyone seems to be chucking out on the Wii these days. You jump and fire blue chips at enemies. That's pretty much it. The missions themselves are boring - one sees you walk around endlessly through a mirror maze until you get to the end. Another, which sees you change the nature of objects via switching between night and day in a forest, is about as fun as a Chinese burn. Sure, you get to team up with (well, walk with) either Will or Helen depending on who's story you're playing as, but these mission feel like a complete letdown and not in keeping with the quality of the rest of the game.
And I'm going to stick my head out on a limb here and say the boss battles, something I was particularly looking forward to, are a bit of a let down too. You actually get to fight them twice per Nightopia. The first time is very easy, the second is a little harder, but also easy. Sonic Team has come up with some interesting bosses to fight, from a giant cat-loving witch to an armoured spider, but what the game has you doing is, in my opinion, uninspiring.
For example, to defeat the witch boss you need to drop her cats into holes ala Marble Madness. To defeat the spider you need to shoot its balls of silk at a giant platform it stands on till it collapses into lava. The issue here isn't defeating the bosses, because that's easy. It's doing it as quickly as possible in order to get the best grade possible. Unfortunately the boss battles were, save perhaps for the final one, drab affairs.
The only thing that will keep me playing NiGHTS beyond story completion (something you'll have wrapped up in six hours max) is trying to beat my grades on the chase missions and comparing those scores with others on the online leader boards.
Of the other online options, only the two-player race justifies attention. The other online options feel tacked on. The boring two-player battle mode, which sees you chuck balls at your opponent, is instantly forgettable. The My Dream, a personalised dream area where Nightopians and Nightmarens you've collected in the game hang out, has some interesting online functionality, including mimicking the weather that's actually lashing your bedroom window as you play. You can even visit other gamers' My Dreams, if the thought takes your fancy. But it's more quirky than compelling.
For fans of the original game the big question is whether or not the 12 year wait for the follow-up to NiGHTS into Dreams has been worth it. The answer will have a lot to do with what you wanted out of Journey into Dreams. Did you simply want classic NiGHTS gameplay with a couple of twists, or did you want a complete overhaul, something that might rekindle that wonderment you felt back in the mid-Nineties? If you wanted the former, NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams should press all the right buttons, despite a quarter of the game being pants. If you wanted the latter, you'll certainly be disappointed I'm afraid, but then perhaps that expectation was always going to be unreasonable - when the original NiGHTS was released it was one of the most original games ever made. An updated version of the game was never going to have a similar impact in 2008.
But for those of us who have never played the original NiGHTS, Journey of Dreams is a fun and cheerful game that fits perfectly within the Wii's casual gaming philosophy. If you can forgive its failings, NiGHTS will be one dream you certainly won't want to wake up from.