When I became a father for the first time, my wife and I experienced all new feelings of fear. Babies are so vulnerable and defenseless and toddlers are so curious and clumsy that the mere thought of them being in danger brings out emotions that we didn’t know we had. Among the Sleep takes the concept of a two-year old searching for his mother at night time and expands it to include real life domestic issues that most married families can relate to. What you will find in the game is an atmospheric adventure that will make you feel a variety of emotions.
The game starts off on the best day of the year, your second birthday! As you sit in your high chair gazing with affection towards your mother, she slices you a piece of cake and showers you with attention. There is a knock at the door along with some audio and visual disturbance, giving the impression that something is wrong. Mom returns with a present for you, an adorable teddy bear. After being left in your room to play, you discover that Teddy can walk and talk. At first it’s hard to know if you can trust Teddy because his voice is very creepy, but it doesn’t take long to realize that he is a trusted ally. Fast forward to night time and you are abruptly woken as your crib falls over, Teddy and mom are missing and the search is on to find them. That’s all the story I will get into, but I will say that the game tackles very real life issues when it comes to the struggles of relationships and parenting. By the end of the campaign a lot of things will make sense and you will have some strong feelings one way or another.
Among the Sleep is played in a first person perspective, as the boy you have to get creative to do the simplest tasks such as opening doors or climbing onto counters. Your bear Teddy joins you in your search for mother, often times warning of danger or giving hints on what to do next. If any area is too dark you can hug Teddy and he will give off a subtle glow, allowing you to see what’s directly in front of you. The tradeoff is that the glow gives off a slight glare making it hard to have it on all the time, you also cannot run while hugging Teddy. Speaking of running you can only do so for a limited time before you fall down. Another nice touch is that when you pause the game, the boy brings up his hands and covers his eyes. I absolutely love these little inclusions; it really shows the attention to detail that Krillbite Studios put into the game. Your character can also grab many objects in the world like toys, chairs, drawers and collectable pictures. The controls work very well but some buttons are mapped funny like RB being used for interacting; thankfully it didn’t take long to get used to them. There are different areas that you end up exploring so rest assured that you’re not confined solely to the house. I will let you experience these areas for yourself, but I will say that they are genuinely creepy and unique from one another.
The graphics in Among the Sleep get the job done admirably. The style is cartoonish but not so much that detracts from the scares. The sound quality is excellent throughout whether it be thunder booming, doors creaking, or the horrible interference noise of the main antagonist. I played with headphones on throughout and there was plenty of times I got goosebumps. The game loads pretty quickly and I didn’t notice any framerate drops. There were a couple of times when the game told me it saved and I came back later and had to start back from the beginning of the stage. Thankfully it didn’t take that long because the collectables I found remained collected. Also in the fourth area the collectables stopped disappearing and chiming when collected. Those subtle issues do detract from the presentation values as a whole, but in the grand scheme of things they are pretty minor.
When I reflect upon some of my most memorable games of the first half of 2016, Among the Sleep is one of them. I felt genuine feelings of sadness, fear, joy and anger throughout the 4 hours I spent playing. In a marketplace where a puzzle or shooting game is released every week, Among the Sleep was a very refreshing change. I highly recommend this game for anyone, as it should appeal to men, women, experienced and novice gamers. It’s not the scariest horror game or the most polished adventure, but it’s an experience I continue to think about even after completing the story
+ Much attention to detail was payed when it comes to playing as a toddler
+ The sound effects set the tone for the psychological thrills
+ I felt genuine and various emotions throughout my playthrough
– Some small presentation issues when it comes to saving and collectables
– The adventure is a little on the short side