Among the Sleep Review: Restless Nights

May 30th, 2014 -

Do you remember what it’s like to be a little kid, wandering around the house and being alone? What about being afraid of the dark? Maybe you thought there were monsters in the closet or under the bed… Among the Sleep puts you back into that perspective, and takes a look at how the world we see everyday looks quite different to a two-year-old.
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The game opens up to you sitting at a table, waiting for your mom to bring over your birthday cake. She’s talking to you as you can look around and fiddle with a ball on the table, throwing it to the ground where it’s lost forever, as any child would. Shortly after being given cake, there is a knock at the door and your mother seems very concerned as she goes to look. You can hear yelling from the front door, and suddenly your vision and hearing are impaired, with blurring around the edges of the screen and static coming through the speakers. Mom then comes back with a present (once you see her, everything is fine again), and you are carried up to your room on her shoulder to see what it is. As she’s opening it, the phone rings and you are left to play in the crib. This is where you actually get a feel for the game, as you learn pretty much all the controls in a safe, normal environment.

As a two-year-old you have two main ways of getting around: crawling and walking. Crawling, unlike most games you play, is actually much faster than walking. You can run while walking as well, though you’ll fall and start crawling after a bit. You can peak around corners when standing, and the aside from interacting with the environment, the only other thing in your arsenal is your Teddy (the gift you got for your birthday). Teddy serves as the narrator for this adventure, coming to life and leading you through the story as you carry him. He also serves as your light in darkness (yes, literally); holding him lights the room around you, providing the comfort a teddy bear gives any child.

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So how scary is it? Well, as you can probably imagine, a child the age of two may get into a lot of stuff, but they don’t do much in regards to … impact. You climb up objects to open doors, crawl under things to hide, and that’s all you can really do when the big baddies come around. In order to get the full effect from the game, you need to forget what you know about the world around you and accept it as a scary place – that heater starting up could just as easily be a monster waiting to get you. Honestly, the game feels like a horror game from the very beginning. Not because it’s supposed to, but the dialogue and some of the animation just makes it feel that way. The lines being delivered (especially by the mom) never sound caring or in your best interest. Teddy especially is a bit of a jerk: hey, I’ve got something to show you, but we need it to be completely dark. Seems legit. Nothing bad ever happened in the dark as a little kid. Then he says he hopes there aren’t any monsters. Seriously Teddy? You aren’t helping. Foreshadowing and perhaps voicing how you feel as a kid, but definitely not helping.

It’s wonderful to see everyday places as scary. The game feels like an adventure game in the sense of Gone Home, though it definitely has more gameplay. There’s some puzzle solving, albeit nothing difficult. And there are moments where you have to time your actions, but for the most part you are left to explore the world around you and see just how different it is being a youngster inside of it. That exploration is guided well enough by level design, with a clear point of where you need to go and you figuring out how to make it happen. Unfortunately, the hardest part of the game is getting it to work properly. Not to say the game is impossible to play due to its bugs, but it’s annoying getting stuck on objects and having to restart. It’s also rather immersion breaking to see so many things clip through one another, or just flying around from being hit by something the wrong way. Another problem with Among the Sleep is that the game is possible to not be scary at all. If you just go about it as the protagonist being naive to the world around him, you can blow through a good portion of the game without doing what it would like you to do. Or by choosing that everything he sees is his imagination – there are multiple ways to play this game depending on your mindset, but the most fulfilling is looking at the world as something new and scary.

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Among the Sleep shoots for horror based on perspective, and if you’re willing to give up what you know of the world, it works. You will live a child’s nightmares, the sweet things you know during the day will be evil come night, and there are monsters out there to get you. If not, this is a game where you’ll be prone a lot going through the motions, solving puzzles and needing to time out certain parts that require waiting. The game is certainly not without its issues, but hopefully they’ll be patched so you can enjoy this unique experience. Until then, I’d say wait on a sale price for this game.

RENT

Pros

  • Tries something new and succeeds
  • Simple yet effective
  • Distorted reality is fun/creepy

Cons

  • Many glitches
  • Dialogue delivery makes everyone seem evil
  • Requires a particular mindset

 

Among the Sleep was created by Krillbite Studio and is available for purchase on Steam (10% off until June 5th). The title is priced at $20, and was released May 29th, 2014. The game was funded by Kickstarter in May of 2013.

 

 

Here at FFoP we use a rating method that you may be unfamiliar with, so allow us to clarify. When we review a game, we see what sort of BRA fits. Buy, Rent, or Acquire is the rating we give out – we’ve boiled it down for simplicity. A Buy is worth the full retail value; a Rent is something you may want to try before you buy, or grab at a discount; an Acquire is something you can play, but we’d suggest borrowing it from someone, grabbing it in a game bundle, or some other means. If you want further clarification, please feel free to get in touch.

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