Dream TV, an action game released for the SNES in April 1994, puts the player in the role of a pair of kids, sucked into a TV and forced to make their way through nightmarish television shows. The villain is the Critic, who sent the kids a trojan horse of a video game cartridge. This just goes to show that you should never open packages from strangers, because you might end up playing Dream TV.
Best time: Single-segment 0:14:20 by Patrick 'PJ' DiCesare on 2012-01-28.
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Before I say anything, I need to thank the SDA crew for everything, as always! I really appreciate how much effort you all put in to keep the site running as smoothly as it does. Thanks! I also need to thank UltraJMan because without him I would never have even know about this game. I need to give a HUGE thanks to Verifier #1, who gave me some extremely valuable route improvements and prompted me to redo the entire run! Without him, this run would be much slower. This is my second Dream TV speed run. I submitted a 15:16 run to SDA last June which was accepted, but one of the verifiers (Verifier #1) mentioned a few critical improvements (the block puzzle room in level 2 and the dinosaur boss fight). I decided to reroute many other screens in this game and eventually came up with this run, which is 56 seconds faster! I didn't think that time was even remotely possible (I previously thought maybe 14:45 was the best possible time), so this run is a huge surprise to me!
That being said, it's time to talk about Dream TV. I can honestly say that I never expected anybody to speed run this game, including myself. Truth be told, this game is actually not bad at all after you figure out how everything works. It is a very daunting game at first because nothing seems to make sense, but it honestly is a pretty impressive puzzle platformer. I am going to do my best to describe some of the finer details of this game below; I can't guarantee that they will help anybody understand what is going on in this video. I highly recommend reading these comments before watching the run anyways.
The goal in this game is to collect all 9 puzzle pieces in each level and defeat the boss at the end of each level. After doing this for all 4 levels in the game, you are faced with one of the most anticlimactic and ridiculous final battles on the SNES. Pretty simple concept.
There are two playable characters in this game, but unlike most other games you have to control both of them if you play single player. Think of Lost Vikings. Similar concept. You switch between characters by pressing L or R, and you can toggle splitscreen/fullscreen with the select button. I try to stay in fullscreen as often as possible to reduce lag, but on some levels where I frequently switch between players (level 3 in particular), I leave it in splitscreen so I can make sure nothing unusual is happening to either character while they are idling. If you are in splitscreen mode and the two players get close to each other, the screen will transition into fullscreen mode on its own. Similarly, it will move from fullscreen into splitscreen if two nearby players move apart by default. The slow transition between the two views is often extremely disorienting because your player will sometimes be out of scope of the split screen for a few seconds, so I had to revise my route in a few sections to accommodate this.
The most unique feature of this game is the pocket potion. I suppose I'll just quote the manual for a description because it will do it better than I do:
"When collected, these magical red potions allow a player to activate them by pressing the POCKET button (X) and shrink to a minute size (Alice In Wonderland style) and travel in the other players [sic] pocket for a limited time (indicated by the countdown timer on the screen). When the countdown reaches zero, or if the player presses the DEPOCKET button (X), he will expand to his original size. This feature is useful to get past dangerous obstacles or opponents quickly. A player can collect a maximum of three potions at a time."
Now, the last sentence is not quite correct because each player starts with 3 and you can collect far more than that. I collect 6 more with the red shirt character in the first level. Anyways, whenever I need to move both players at one time, I use the pocket potion. It is just way faster than otherwise. If you are ever confused about what is going on in the run, there is a good chance I used a pocket potion. It makes a distinct noise when it (de)activates, so it's pretty obvious when I use one.
There are very, very few speed tricks in this game, which shouldn't really be a surprise to anybody. I'll briefly mention some of the tricks, though. The jumps in this game are semi-committal. It's not as bad as the Ghosts 'n Goblins series, but still quite stiff. If you hold the opposite direction at the right point during a jump, you will reverse all of your momentum. It probably the most used trick in this run. The issue is that it is extremely finicky and you frequently don't turn around at the right point in the jump, if at all.
Unlike Mega Man titles, it is not faster to jump off ledges to build some vertical velocity. See, you instantly reach terminal velocity when you walk off a ledge, but it takes awhile for you to reach that velocity if you jump. The only instances in which it is best to jump off a ledge is when I can reverse in the air to gain some ground, but in many cases, that is still a few frames slower than just walking off the ledge.
Ok, I think that is a sufficient overview. I'll do some individual level comments:
Level 1 (Medieval World):
The first jump is ridiculously hard somehow. Long, precise jumps in this game are a nightmare. I lose like 60% of my attempts to that first jump. It's fantastic. This level goes basically perfectly. I made a few minor improvements to the second screen to save about 4 pocket-timer-units, which is just shy of a full second. I had a really good teeter totter and was pretty optimized for the rest of the stage. My dragon fight was a little slow, but still above average. I had one total freak fight during an attempt that finished close to 20 pocket-timer-units ahead of this, but have never ever come close to that time before.
The final screen in the level cannot be done any faster, even though it looks like I'm just loafing around wasting time. When the beehive falls, it will continue releasing bees until there are no more. The are released at a fixed rate until then, and nothing will speed it up. I take this time to collect all the puzzle pieces remaining here and generally just loaf around. I collect the beehive as soon as possible in this video.
Level 2 (Egyptian World):
This is the hardest level in the game to do optimally. Fortunately, this run has a completely perfect run through here! These teeter totters are so so hard to use quickly. I didn't mention it before, but trying to space yourself correctly on these is a disaster. You need to be on the very edge of the teeter totter, but if you are too close to the edge, you occasionally fall off. It's so dumb. I've been getting quite good at using them; in fact, the two teeter totters in this stage are as close to perfect as possible. I have to wait for the elevator after the first one, so it doesn't matter how fast I am there. For the second one, I need to be very fast, but if I am TOO fast, the snakes are in a bad spot and do a lot of damage to me. This is actually the ideal first room. Since I left with full health, I was allowed to do my super awesome strat in the second room.
I have come into the second room with full health exactly twice ever. This is one of those times. I have 4 separate routes for this room based on where my health is; if my health is too low, I have to wait for the scorpion at the bottom of the room for 2-3 seconds before I drop down (I need slightly above 50% health on my return trip through this room, so I cannot take any damage in that case). If I have like 80% health, I can just tank a hit on the scorpion and proceed. If I have FULL health, I can tank a hit on the scorpion AND the falling blocks. That saves an additional 2 seconds. It doesn't seem like much, but I was thrilled to be able to do that in a completed run!
The puzzle room is tough to follow, I imagine. The goal is to have all three columns of tiles match the sample column to the left, by hitting those switches to shift them. This is definitely the fastest solution. Thanks to Verifier #1 for pointing out that a faster solution exists (and LagDotCom for helping me find the solution), I was able to cut around 16 seconds off of this room! That is huge! Anyways, when you solve that puzzle, it creates a platform in the upper half of the room. As for the mummies, they cease to have a hitbox when they are stationary and I can run right by them. It is possible to run past the first one as he is moving so you really only need one player for this room, but it is faster to just bring along player 2 anyways.
The difficulty in this level is taking the right amount of damage so that player 2 doesn't die from the pharaohs and so that player 1 dies in one hit against the flames when I return to the main room again. This is difficult because all of the knife-wielding pharaohs have infinite hitboxes. If they throw a knife, you are hit. You can be at the bottom of a ladder, but if a pharaoh at the top throws a knife you are hit. Getting hit by them is death, so I need to be extra careful. Fortunately, everything goes according to plan.
The final room has undergone a few different revisions. My old strategy was much much slower and waited for most of the crocodiles. I changed it first to only wait for the crocodiles once, but that was really dangerous and inconsistent. This revision was mostly the result of me being angry at how bad my previous strategy was and just going balls-out. Somehow, it turned into a legitimate route. The only issue is if the frog at the beginning doesn't hit me. I always just buffer a jump during the loading screen, so there is no reason for it to vary at all. SOmetimes I jump clear over the frog though, so the fish that jumps out of the water hits/recoils me and I can't make the jump across the water in time. It is very annoying. Obviously it didn't happen here though, so that's great. This screen saved a huge chunk of time. The boss is really easy. I got hit twice to bring my health down as low as possible so I can death abuse in one hit in level 3.
Level 3 (Prehistoric World):
This is a very straightforward level. I did everything pretty much perfectly. My death abuse at the start was as fast as possible, I played in full screen more to avoid some lag, I landedly the really tough boulder jump with the blue shirt kid, and I managed my health really well with both characters. I am very pleased with this level! My teeter totter in this stage could've been done a bit better. It took a few more jumps than I really wanted, but it was still pretty good. It normally takes me a long time to set it up correctly because for this one you truly need pixel perfect spacing. On the other teeter totters there is a broad range of spacings you can use successfully because you don't need much height; that is not the case here.
The boss of this level is ingenious. The ONLY way to kill him is to break the bridge and have him walk forward off the bridge to his death. You can hit him all you want with your dagger, but nothing will happen. This is the other major improvement to my route. Verifier #1 pointed out a better way to kill him by only dying twice and luring him off the edge by running close to him and retreating. I looked into this battle even more and found a way to do it with just one death. This strategy saves 9 seconds and 3 lives, which gives me a lot more flexibility in the final battle!
Level 4 (Future World):
This level is really cool. I thoroughly enjoy it. The other levels (except level 3) have two weapons: a dagger that moves horizontally and some sort of axe that travels in an arc. This level has two weapons as well, but they are slightly different. The laser gun hurts some enemies in this level, and the stun canister immobilizes the enemies that can't be harmed with the laser gun. Normally you need one player to collect the stun canister and one player to use the laser gun. The stun canister player normally has to go to the farthest room so he can stun the tank and walk past him safely. It takes a few seconds to collect the stun canister though, so I found a way to not use it by damage boosting through the tank.
The second room is terrifying. Those electric barriers are instant death if you are at all nearby (goooo hitboxes!). When I deactivate the pocket potion and the screen reverts to split screen, they are not really visible on screen for the first few seconds so I have to navigate blindly. I lost a few attempts there from running too far too soon and dying. I messed up here a little because the red shirt kid got hit a few too many times and couldn't make the jump without moving forward. This threw off the timing for blue shirt kid to go through the electric barriers. I had to delay one more cycle before passing through. I lost a few seconds but I didn't lose the run. I was so far ahead of my old run at this point, I absolutely did not want to lose it.
The red shirt player has the hardest jump in the game at the top of the same room. Landing on that white platform is very pixel perfect. I don't know if that is the intended route for this game, but I found no other way to get there or make it easier. I made the jump in this attempt, so I was very happy. Yayyy!
One of the best features of this level is that there are two invisible puzzle pieces. Yup. Completely invisible. I of course collect them in this run, but I won't spoil the surprise. Just watch the video and listen for the audio cues. It's pretty cruel.
The final room (in which blue shirt is alone) is pretty tricky. I cannot take even one unintentional hit or else I game over. Even action in this room is carefully choreographed to successfully navigate me to the top. I slip up a bit at the end with the dinosaur head because I had a previous attempt end here from falling straight down and dying. There is a way to break the 3rd and 4th platforms and then fall down at an angle instead of straight down, but I didn't remember how to do it and was SO NERVOUS at this point that I didn't want to risk losing the run here to just save 1-2 seconds. Unfortunately, when I tried to play it safe by running to the very last platform, I ran 1-2 pixels too far and had to try to do a reverse jump to safety. See above with the finicky controls of the reverse jump. Haha. Scary times. Overall, I lost probably 6 seconds from those blunders. I am totally fine with that though, since those were my first mistakes of the run.
Uhhh.....why? This boss is dumb. The games takes all of your lives and turns them into health on a giant health bar. If you touch the final boss, you lose all your health at once and game over instantly. The bombs the boss shoots also do damage, and dodging them is fairly tricky because of how dumb the hitboxes are. I have a LOT more health in this fight than in my old run because of the new dinosaur boss strategy, so I can survive....either 3 or 4 bombs before dying. This fight is absolutely spectacular. I think I missed a total of 2 shots, and I kept my rhythm for the entire fight. Because I had much more health, I was able to just ignore the bombs for the most part and focus on hitting Critic. I am VERY happy with this fight.
I don't think this run will be beaten. I previously thought maybe a 14:40 or 14:45 was possible, but this run beat that by 20-25 seconds! My luck was exceptional throughout the entire run, my route was much more optimized, thanks to Verifier #1, and I really only made two minor mistakes which amounted to like 6-7 seconds. All runs can be improved, but I don't think anybody will bother spending the time to learn this game just to beat the run by <10 seconds. If somebody does, they definitely deserve it!
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