Review – Psycho Dream

Psycho Killer title screen header

What did I walk into? My mother and I finished playing Puzzle Bobble for the evening, but there was still time before everyone went off to bed. I was holding my SNES clone controller, so I flipped over to the Switch Online SNES channel, not really knowing what I wanted to play, so, without much thought, I chose Psycho Dream, one of the Super Famicom games available to North American subscribers. I can’t even say I chose it on a whim because I don’t think I put any thought into what I was selecting.

What a journey.

The first thing I noticed was it was published by Telenet Japan, who I know from recent experiences with games like El Viento and Valis. Then, the opening credits showed the director, Kenichi Nishi.

“I know that name,” I thought to myself. I initially believed it was maybe because he had something to do with Valis, but I knew it was something more significant than that.

No, wait. Kenichi Nishi was at Love-de-Lic before he co-founded Skip. The dude helped create Chibi-Robo!

Psycho Dream fairy hooker fighting a fly.
There aren’t enough fairy games.

YOU GOING OUT TO FIGHT EVIL IN THAT?

Not that it really shows in the game. I half expected that Psycho Dream would follow Valis, or at least El Viento, and have some manner of cutscene, but aside from an opening crawl across a 16-bit Tokyo skyline, there’s no explanation for what is going to happen. There are a few text blurbs in Japanese, that don’t actually tell you the story. They just say that you’re prohibited from duplicating the cartridge.

Why do we get a cinematic credit roll but nothing else? Instead, you select your character from between Ryo and Maria with no context whatsoever.

I tried to find the manual but had no luck, which is unfortunate because I wanted to see some art from the game. Instead, we’ll turn to Hardcore Gaming 101, who tells us the story is about a virtual reality experience that is trapping tech-heads within it. Ryo and Maria are two “debuggers” who work to free these enraptured youths. The one they’re trying to free in Psycho Dream is Sayaka.

That’s cool, but this is all hindsight. I wasn’t looking it up at 10 pm while sitting on the couch while my mother checked her social media. So, I selected the character whose name corresponds with my gender and found myself playing as a whip-wielding dominatrix.

Psycho Dream fighting a Jellyfish on the highway
Traffic is backed up due to a fight between a dominatrix and a jellyfish.

VAMPIRE HUNTER

I know what you’re saying. “Sure, when a guy wears leather and wields a whip, he’s a vampire hunter, but when a woman does it, she’s a dominatrix.” I get the double standard, but she’s wearing a leather singlet with thigh-high stilettos and matching evening gloves. That’s a very specific sex worker uniform. But thankfully, sadism and heroism aren’t very different.

You fight weird monsters like bugs, germs, and flying sea creatures with your whip. Occasionally, a crystal gets dropped which alternate colours, and when you pick one up while it’s yellow, Maria’s weapon turns into a cat o’ nine tails. Hardcore Gaming 101 says it’s monster claws, but my sweet summer children, it’s an upgraded whip. I don’t know how the manual describes it, but the upgraded whip is a cat o’ nine tails. With her third upgrade, she just spins with the whip giving you a great view of her ass, which is gobbling up her thong.

Incredible.

I never even looked at Ryo until this HG101 article. He gets pants, but he also has a cape. I’m not sure what kind of professional dresses like that, but I’m going to guess he’s a flamboyant opera phantom.

It doesn’t start making more sense from there. You fight in urban environments until you eventually run down a highway and reach a cave. It’s a lot. Actually, it’s not a lot. It’s like, 45 minutes long. I had it finished before bedtime.

Psycho Dream fighting a moth on top of a skyscrape.
Don’t worry. That bug knows the safety word.

RUNNING SHOES

On top of upgrading her whip, she can get a crappy laser or eventually turn into a fairy. Fairies are some of the best fantastical creatures you can hunt, and this one in particular is laughably overpowered. She shoots homing balls in all directions, and they wreck most anything they touch. However, she loses her wings and reverts to a mundane, terrestrial hooker after, like, three hits. If you can keep it, you can clear huge swaths of Psycho Dream without effort.

Most of the game is pretty forgettable, but the part that stands out most to me is this level where you’re auto-running down the highway. It’s just this incredible transition where you’re going through a bunch of liminal office spaces, and suddenly, you’re sprinting down the road. Impressive in a pair of such high stilettos, but I guess when you wear them for your normal job, they’re just a normal pair of shoes.

And then you’re in, like, a cave. And then there’s a castle. I don’t want to spoil it, but then there’s a boss, and it’s over.

It’s a good thing Psycho Dream is just so bizarre, because there is nothing to talk about when it comes to the gameplay. Imagine if someone took the jankiness of Castlevania 64 and injected it into Castlevania. And then give it a run button that you don’t realize exists until halfway through the game.

Psycho Dream just a sex worker standing on a scaffold.
I’m just jealous that I can’t look good in an outfit like that.

HEROIC VOCATIONS

It’s funny that Valis, El Viento, and Psycho Dream are all by different developers, because they are all these serviceable but clumsy action platformers with grainy, over-detailed graphics. Does Telenet Japan mandate these very specific features in their games?

And like the other Telenet Japan games I’ve played, I didn’t necessarily enjoy Psycho Dream, but I don’t regret the time I spent with it. It’s an utterly unique and strange game that feels half-baked. The developers just went for it, and this is where they landed. You can play any from a slew of games starring a plumber fighting a turtle, but how many where you step into the thigh-highs of a hooker fighting a jellyfish.

5/10

This review was conducted on a digital version of the game available via the Nintendo Switch Online subscription. The author pays for her family’s subscription.

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About Zoey Handley 243 Articles
Zoey made up for her mundane childhood by playing video games. Now she won't shut up about them. Her eclectic tastes have led them across a vast assortment of consoles and both the best and worst games they have to offer. A lover of discovery, she can often be found scouring through retro and indie games. She currently works as a Staff Writer at Destructoid.

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