For Media Molecule, the developers of the immensely popular (and nostalgic) LittleBigPlanet series, the next move post-LBP seemed obvious: take the love for user-generated content that had given their previous games unprecedented longevity and turn it up to 11. This philosophy gave us 2020's Dreams, a hugely underrated creator's toolkit that lets players go from simply crafting their own 2D platforming levels (as in LittleBigPlanet) to creating entire games within games from scratch, limited only by their imaginations.
It even came with a proof-of-concept single-player campaign built with the very same tools available to players, but unfortunately, whether due to lack of mass appeal or the fact that the new mascot just wasn't quite as cute as Sackboy, the game failed to find a mainstream audience. Nevertheless, it did manage to attract a thriving community of would-be hobbyist developers, and saw updates, contests and more — until very recently, when Media Molecule released the final coup de grace to end the game's life cycle. Meet Tren, the best puzzle game of the year, built (and playable) entirely within Dreams.
What they've done here is amazing. The visuals and aesthetic bring one back to a simpler time, and the gameplay – which can be tranquil or pulse-pounding depending on the level – has that perfect mix of fluidity and occasionally migraine-inducing frustration that you want from a puzzle game. Quite simply, it feels good to play and you feel good when you play it – and as far as free game modes within much larger games go, it gives The Witcher 3's Gwent a run for its money in my book.