Capsule Review: Dawn

A short 3D platformer created by a team of game design grad students and released for free on Steam. The mechanics never get especially complicated - they don’t really have time to. You can run, jump, double-jump, and shoot a burst of wind that activates a few different kinds of things in the environment. There are also some flowers that act as bounce pads, launching you higher than you can jump.

It’s all pretty standard, but that’s fine - the game’s appeal comes from its impressive atmosphere. It’s quite reminiscent of Flower - you play as some kind of nature sprite in a beautiful and dreamlike world, there is no dialog or explicit story, you progress by breathing life into flowers and vines (and ruins), you ride the winds when you fall, there’s a dynamic piano-focused soundtrack, and your ultimate goal is to restore the light in a dead tree. The off-the-path collectibles are even secret flowers.

My first leisurely-paced playthrough with extensive exploration (I found all the flowers and ruins) took just under half an hour. Relaxedly taking in the scenery and the mood was a soothing experience. Mopping up all the achievements (a couple of which are really obscure and I had to look up) took another half hour, and this was much less enjoyable. I have the impression the achievements were put in to increase the playtime - they did double mine. But achievement-hunting engages you far more with the mechanics than the atmosphere, and that atmosphere is by far Dawn’s greatest strength. Is it worth doubling playtime if the second half is essentially charmless?

I Stopped Playing When: After an hour I’d gotten all the achievements.

Docprof's Rating:

Three Stars: Good. I liked the game enough to finish it (or just play it a bunch, for games that don't end). I recommend it to most genre fans.

You can get it or learn more here.