Dream & Sugar – Demo | First Impressions

Chase your dreams and maybe even find love — all over a cup of coffee, of course. When four young, hopeful college graduates share their caffeine-fuelled dreams to be an artist, writer, musician, and fashion designer, they’ll find far more than just a sounding board…

Game Name: Dream & Sugar
Developer: Couch Lion Studios
Publisher: Couch Lion Studios
Platform: PC
Price: Free (Demo)
Age Rating: Teen
More information: here!

In the demo of Dream & Sugar – Couch Lion Studio’s upcoming romantic coming-of-age visual novel – you’ll have the opportunity to meet the game’s three love interests; Bennett, Riley, and Hugo. You’ll also get a feel for the game’s style, and a few plot hooks are introduced to get you wondering about the sorts of things that might await in the full game.

If you’ve ever dreamed of making your creative passion your profession, then you’ll likely identify with the cast of Dream & Sugar. As a freelance writer myself, I could relate to the characters trying to balance their hope and dreams with realistic expectations, and I’m curious to see how their goals pan out further into the story…

Demo review: The total estimated playtime for the Dream & Sugar demo is 30-50 minutes. This review is based on my first impressions of the game after playing through the demo; however, some game elements may change between now and release date. If you’re curious, you can try the free demo for yourself by clicking here.

Premise

“Dream & Sugar, a visual novel exploring relationships, love, and the transition to adulthood…”

– Official Game Description (itch)

In Dream & Sugar, you play as Nora Evers (name customisable), who just graduated from college with an art degree and is now entering the world of ‘adulting’ for the first time. Your best friend Riley is there to support you with an endless supply of caffeine, and while you work on kick-starting your art career you’ll also meet the considerate novelist, Bennett, and the gregarious barista, Hugo.

This demo takes place at the protagonist’s favourite café (which is also Riley and Hugo’s place of employment), and players will have the opportunity to spend a little time with each love interest, to give you a taste of what’s to come in the full game release. There’s also an optional art minigame, where you can work on your own digital art – or, if you’re like me and have little to no artistic skills, you can always opt for the game to supply a design for you.

So far, it seems Dream & Sugar will be a combined romance and coming of age story, revolving around the four young adults as they all try to figure out their place in the world. The game’s name is apt, as ‘dreams’ are a prominent theme, with each of the main characters being a creative person trying to make a living from their art, in one way or another.

Characters

Main Character (MC)

Name: Customisable (Default: Nora Evers)
Pronouns: She/Her
Voice Actor: N/A

There were a few player choices in the demo, so it does provide an opportunity to get a basic first impression of the protagonist, but it’s too soon to say to what extent you can customise your protagonist’s personality via these player choices.

So far, Dream & Sugar’s MC seems young, enthusiastic, intelligent, and a little sarcastic. Freshly graduated and full of dreams, she’s hopeful for the future and ready to embark on her new career. I did get a sense of some insecurities, or at least the ability empathise with other people’s insecurities, but her responses to the other characters were typically confident and self-assured.

I’m interested to see how her character develops over a longer span of story, particularly in response to adversity, and the process of trying to work out her feelings about these three loveable love interests…

Bennett Summers

Name: Bennett Summers
Pronouns: He/Him
Voice Actor: Will Handford (Partially-voiced)

Bennett is a bashful, thoughtful writer of erotic fiction — which is excellent and I’m very excited to romance him in the full game. Depending on the choices you make, you may unlock different scenes with him, so I recommend playing around with the player choices to make sure you get the full experience.

Riley LaRue

Name: Riley LaRue
Pronouns: She/Her
Voice Actor: Jessica Osborne (Partially-voiced)

Riley is your best friend of five years and local caffeine dealer, who dreams of being a full-time fashion designer. She’s cheerful, supportive, and it’s clear she already has a deep connection with the protagonist. In the demo, their relationship feels almost entirely platonic, but there were a couple of moments that I thought could be a little flirty – so I’m interested to see how this develops over the course of the story.

Hugo Sterling

Name: Hugo Sterling
Pronouns: He/Him
Voice Actor: Isaac Anzu (Partially-voiced)

Hugo is a charming, flirty barista whose aspirations lie in the music industry. He’s introduced last in the demo, so I didn’t get quite such a strong feel for his character, but this just means I have more to look forward to in the full release. That being said, his cheeky charm is made apparent from the first impression, so I’m not sure if this will be consistent throughout the story, or if there’s something more lying beneath his carefree smile…

Story

There’s a distinct writing style and sense of humour that’s consistent throughout the demo, so it will be easy to tell from this glimpse whether or not the story will suit your tastes. I enjoyed the sarcastic humour, and all of the characters were surprisingly nice and open with each other, despite some of them only having just met.

It’s a little difficult to comment on plot and pacing at this stage of the game’s development, but so far it all seems good. I didn’t notice any typos or grammatical errors, and nothing seemed clunky or unclear. My only critique would be that I sometimes felt there was too much text being displayed at once – especially in the player choice boxes.

I would have preferred the lines to be broken up a bit, even if it means clicking more, as I find it easier to follow along when the words are fed to me more slowly. But that’s just my personal preference, and I actually got used to it fairly quickly, so it’s definitely not something that would put me off playing the rest of the game.

I love the chalkboard UI design – it suits the coffee shop theme!

Gameplay & Settings

In terms of gameplay, there’s the usual ‘click to read’ system that visual novels use, as well as a built-in art minigame that lets you make your own designs. This is a cute and fun way to add an extra element of player interactivity that makes sense for the story. It doesn’t disrupt the momentum of the plot, and it’s entirely optional, so you only have to engage as much as you want to.

There are plenty of settings and options to play around with, so I recommend tweaking those while the demo is available to make sure it’ll be easy for you to play according to your preferences.

My only recommendation in terms of accessibility would be to maybe make the font bigger, or offer different options that make it easier to read. The text box is opaque, so there shouldn’t be any issues with transparency, but I did occasionally find the font a little small for me – particularly in the player choice boxes.

Final Thoughts

The Dream & Sugar demo is a great way to get a first impression of the cast, to see if any of them pique your interest. I also got a good feel for the mechanics and an idea of the general pacing of the story — although it did feel like I only read the initial plot hooks, with limited development after each idea was introduced. Still, this is just the demo, and I’ll just have to wait for the full release to see where the story goes from there!

There are a few alternate scenarios and outcomes, so it’s worth playing around with some of the player choices to see all the different interactions. I like that this is included, to show that player choices will be important to the outcome of the full game.

I think it’s safe to say that the Dream & Sugar demo has successfully captured my heart, and I’ll be looking out for the full release so I can finish what I started with Bennett (he’s just so cute!). If you’re on the lookout for a new indie otome game and want to give Dream & Sugar a try, I recommend checking out their free demo on itch.

You’ll like Dream & Sugar if you like: modern, young adult otome games; coffee; cute charmers with man buns; otome games that include female love interests; coming of age stories; sarcastic, cheeky humour; and blushing shy boys who are passionate about erotic fiction.

Screenshots

Game Info

Game Name: Dream & Sugar
Developer: Couch Lion Studios
Publisher: Couch Lion Studios
Platform: PC
Price: Free (Demo)
Age Rating: Teen
More information: here!

~ Thank you to Couch Lion Studios for reaching out to us about your demo for Dream & Sugar! We look forward to the full game release ~

Thank You

~☆ Patrons ☆~

SSR – Tarranga

SSR – Caroline

SR – Fitzroy

SR – Teryarel

R – Vilicus

Contact Us

For media, PR, and business enquiries, please email us at: sweetnspicyreviews@gmail.com

Patreon | Twitter | Facebook | Reddit

More like this…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.