LSD: Dream Emulator

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LSD: Dream Emulator game cover

ConsolePlayStation
DeveloperAsmik Ace Entertainment
PublisherAsmik Ace Entertainment
GenreFirst-person exploration, experimental
Release Year1998
PurchaseClick here to purchase from eBay.

This game…

Huh…

LSD: Dream Emulator
This is some serious avant-garde shit, man.

LSD: Dream Emulator is perhaps one of the strangest games to ever exist, and that is no exaggeration. I guess when you have your game named LSD, you’re bound to have something strange on your hands. The funny thing is that the abbreviation has no relation to the actual drug. In reality, it’s hard to pin down the true meaning.

Based on what I’ve seen presented in cutscenes from the game, it could be:

  • Lovely Sweet Dream, the name of the original dream journal
  • in Leisure, the Sonorous Dream
  • in Lunacy, the Savage Dream
  • in Laughter, the Spiritual Dream
  • in Life, the Sensuous Dream
  • in Limbo, the Silent Dream

But with the kind of fucked up shit that happens in the game, you might as well be on acid. There is so much psychedelic imagery that your eyes will melt out of your sockets and will reappear at the palms of your hands, fully functioning.

What, that sentence doesn’t even make sense? Well, neither does this game.

So, a little history. LSD: Dream Emulator is based on the dream journal by Hiroko Nishikawa, a staff member of the game’s developer Asmik Ace Entertainment. The game was only released in Japan. But due to its disturbing content, it managed to reach out to a wider audience and gained cult status.

Finding a physical copy of this game is like hunting for fossils. It’s extremely rare and you would have to spend a small fortune to own it. So like with the rest of the Internet, the most realistic way to experience this WTF world is to emulate it.

LSD: Dream Emulator

You start off in a claustrophobic hallway. Immediately, you notice the awkward controls. Turning your body is a slow and tedious process, and you even have to use separate buttons for just looking up and down. Because of your limited perspective, it’s very easy to get stuck in walls and unintentionally warp to a new area.

What is the objective of the LSD: Dream Emulator? Well, ain’t that the million dollar question.

Honestly, there is no clear cut objective. Basically, the main portion of the game is experiencing a “dream.” You are compelled to explore the various strange places that appear. If you run into walls or interact with other objects, you teleport to a different area (in a process called “linking.”)

LSD: Dream Emulator

You may also find some bizarre entities like giant flying fish, shark fins (with no sharks attached to them), dead people, giant women in kimonos, bulls that jog on their hind legs, dancing wooden dummies, and giant faces in tiny rooms that headbutt you if you approach them.

LSD: Dream Emulator
Seriously, WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK!

*sobs*

Please don’t eat me…

Touching any of these apparently living entities will make you warp to a new place instantly. While many people who have heard of this game may know about the giant faces, the other commonly recognized entity of the game is someone called the Gray Man.

LSD: Dream Emulator Gray Man

Who is he? We have no idea. We just know that he likes to give you a bad case of jumpscares. Think of him as some sort of precursor Slender Man.

I guess the main idea is that you keep these dreams running as long as possible. Depending on how you interact in them, different things can happen such as the textures of a familiar environment being completely different or the background music going batshit insane.

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The graphics aren’t exactly great, even for the PlayStation era. In fact, they’re very ugly. By the time this game came out, there were already much better-looking games on  the system. You may find some neat environments due to their surreal, dreamlike nature, but mostly everything is a textured, muddy mess. There are so many different clashing colors that I feel like getting a seizure.

And somehow, the ugliness of the graphics do well in making the game look even more fucked up. It makes you so nervous that you think the game will implode into a giant glitchy mess.

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And many of the character models lack any distinct features, especially the humanlike entities. They look more like the Fighting Polygon Team from the original Super Smash Bros. And yes, they are SO. FUCKING. CREEPY.

LSD: Dream Emulator hanged women
Hehe… Want to know the shit-your-pants part? These hanged people can suddenly come alive and stalk you.

I can follow David Lynch films more than this game. There’s only so much of virtual Uncanny Valley I could take.

The background music is like a choir of ATARI characters squealing out in this one cacophonous mess. And the constant patter of your footsteps just make the sound design all the more grating. For a game like this, the music does sell the deranged atmosphere. But after a while, this is the kind of sound design that gives you a headache in a few minutes. Nowadays, I’m finding myself turning off the sound whenever I boot this game up.

Occasionally, you will be able to watch cutscenes instead of experiencing dreams that come across as short art films. Overall, the game’s context is left widely up to player interpretation as you’re just marveling at the WTF-itude around you.

I really don’t know what kind of people would have these types of dreams. It’s like having a smoke right before bed and experiencing some of the worst fever dreams possible.

With that said, is the game worth playing?

Honestly… I don’t know. It’s one of those games that I don’t wholeheartedly or even halfheartedly recommend. It’s one unique experience, but definitely not for everyone.

Once you experience a good chunk of the game, finding new entities becomes more difficult and pretty much every location you visit is the same thing over and over… just with different textures. It turns into a repetitive experience and the novelty effect wears off in a hour or so.

The biggest draw of the game is simply just triggering as many strange events as possible. Exploring a surreal dream world is a cool idea in itself. In this case though, there is only so much you can find before the game feels stale. But seeing as how this did come from the original PlayStation, this shouldn’t be much of a shock.

So if you feel like giving yourself nightmares and don’t mind bright, flashing colors, have at it. Just be sure to have several Internet pictures/videos of puppies and kittens next to you after you finish…

And hey, if you like, you can even try out the fan-made remake built on the Unity engine. Though it’s an alpha build, it’s planned to expand upon the original content and may even get virtual reality support. So look forward to more LSD.

LSD: Dream Emulator

Price Varies
LSD: Dream Emulator
6.33333333333

GAMEPLAY

7/10

    GRAPHICS

    8/10

      SOUNDTRACK

      5/10

        Pros

        • The game does an excellent job in conveying an unnerving surreal world full of anomalies.
        • In spite of the ugly graphics, they do help convey the game’s unique art style.
        • The cutscenes and short movies are interesting to watch, coming across as short art films.

        Cons

        • The controls feel strangely tight, making it somewhat uncomfortable to move around and easy to run into objects unintentionally.
        • The lack of solid objectives makes the game feel lacking in purpose.
        • The walking sound effects are loud and grating, much louder than the annoying background music.
        • Finding new events later on becomes a more difficult process and overall not a worthwhile effort.
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