Developer: Krillbite Studios
Publisher: Krillbite Studios
Plot: A two year old lives a happy life, but when the toddler goes to sleep, that peaceful façade crumbles away, revealing a world of terror.
The moment news broke out that there would be an Indie horror game, where you played through the perspective of a two year old, gamers everywhere flocked to Among the Sleep. Originality goes a long way and when this particular game boasts a totally unique gaming experience, it is hard not to resist seeing what the fuss is about.
The mechanics are fairly simple, which works fine, as you are playing a baby, so logically complicated manoeuvres are instantly out of the question. You can clamber and throw things, but other than that, you are have the ability to walk and crawl. Sometimes, walking doesn’t even go to plan, as you lose your balance and fall into a crawling position. When you are running from a bad guy, this can be a terrifying experience. With you on this journey is a teddy bear, you imagine to life. It adds to the whimsical nature of a toddler’s mind, but also provides some secondary dialogue to proceedings. You can also hug your teddy to throw some light into your surroundings, a useful tool when you get to the gloomier second half of the game. Everything else is puzzle-solving. The puzzle-solving is little more than finding objects to fit into shapes, but seeing as you are controlling a toddler, this feels strangely apt. The game also works at making it more complicated than that, so it really does feel like you are a toddler struggling to make sense of the world. It is a tricky thing to convey and the game manages enough moments like this to make Among the Sleep a relative success.
Of course, the real charm of the game comes from the ending. As you start the game, you might begin to question if what you are seeing is real. There are certain beats of the game that suggests that what you are playing through is little more than a child’s overactive imagination. At the beginning, you clamber through a seemingly endless wardrobe, with shadowy dresses at every turn. The dresses move in an imagined breeze and could pass for something out of horror movie, Woman in Black. It is more eerie than scary yet it still gets across the message that someone is having a trippy nightmare. As you get nearer to the end, little details stick out. The obstacles that confront you are individually random, but if you are looking at the bigger picture, you might just realise that the game is subtly giving its ending away. Among the Sleep is worth a second play, because once you know the twist ending, the map is a lot more intelligent, sprouting clues from every angle. However, there is also charm in coming to the end of the game, totally oblivious. Everything you took for granted is turned on its head and the writers of Among the Sleep prove that they have a point to make, rather than just giving us an enjoyable game.
I am going to be a little critical now, but this is mainly because the Indie game market is the most interesting one at the moment, with new ideas booming from everywhere. I want to see it improve, so nit-picking is my way of breaking down and explaining the smaller problems. Among the Sleep is a great concept, but it is a pretty average game. Once you know the ending, the rest of the game seems a little unnecessary. The puzzle sections are essentially killing time, before the game gets you to where it wants you to go. You need to collect memories and to collect the memories, you need to collect another Macguffin to get each one. It is time-wasting and after a while, it becomes painfully apparent. Also, the obvious flaw is that both the premise and twist ending give the writers little space to develop the horror in the game. They cannot really have the monsters here harming the baby in any way, because that is just wrong. It is understandable, but the counter-argument to letting them off the hook is that the developers chose this topic. They should have started down this road, once they figured out a way around the obvious flaw. Also, the twist ending reveals that the monsters are better kept at a distance. Seeing more of them would have given the game away too early. But, despite a good story and atmosphere, Among the Sleep leaves you craving more.
Final Verdict: A little unsatisfying, but Among the Sleep tackles something original, attaching a storyline that makes this Indie Game very worthwhile.