Kickstarter darling Among the Sleep is a horror adventure game seen through the eyes of a 2 year old child. That premise alone was enough to peak my interest, not only is it incredibly unique, it works so well that in hindsight I’m surprised someone didn’t think it sooner.
The game starts up on the evening of your second birthday, with your doting mother serving you cake before being interrupted by an ominous knock on the door. From there the game dials up the creep factor by waking you up in your crib, in the middle of the night, with your teddy bear and other inanimate objects moving around willy-nilly, all to the tune of horrible screaming. After taking a short few moments to get used to the simple and intuitive controls, you eventually reunite with your teddy bear, who can now talk and serves as the main story telling device.
Atmosphere is everything in Among the Sleep. Through the eyes of a 2 year old stumbling through dark corridors, playgrounds and other locations familiar to any toddler, objects that would normally be mundane take on a new life as they cast scary shadows or creek in the wind. It perfectly simulates the feeling we all got as children when every shadow or open closet in our bedroom turned into terrifying monsters waiting to devour us in our sleep.
After a while the game introduces a more tangible danger. A scary monster is often seen stalking the twisted locations you’re forced to visit. And while it can be easily avoided, the dread of hearing it’s scream and seeing the screen shake and distort on its approach is still an effective scare. It’s not there just for show either, like most things in this game, it serves as a symbolic representation of real fears and dangers a toddler might face, though we won’t spoil how.
Among the Sleep didn’t exactly impress us with incredible graphics, with most textures being medium-to-low resolution, and low-polygon models aplenty. But the dense and convincing atmosphere does a good job of masking the limited graphical fidelity of the game. On the other hand the sound design is spot on; creepy music builds up tension to erupt in jump scares timed to unexpected events, and while the game doesn’t have a lot of it, the voice acting that is there is more than serviceable.
As a toddler you’re not very mobile, you can walk, crawl, sprint, and climb modest heights. Sprinting is a last resort that will cause you to fall over to a crawl if you go too far. Crawling is actually pretty quick, but you need to be standing or walking to interact with objects, so you’ll mostly use it to navigate tight spaces or hide from dangers. While walking you can move things like chairs and boxes around to reach doorknobs or tall ledges.
The gameplay fails to provide challenge or engagement, but it succeeds in furthering the immersion of what it would be like to view and interact with the world as a 2 year old child. This was made really apparent when we, without even thinking, crawled under a nearby bed as we heard a scary sound, this after playing the game for just a few minutes.
Among the Sleep does a lot of things right, and our hats go off to Krillbite Studios for coming up with and executing on such a unique idea. The atmosphere is expertly crafted, the gameplay, while shallow, is unique and thought provoking. That said, the graphics could use some refinement, and the 2 hour play time calls into question the 20$ price tag. It’s rare for us at Elder-Geek to be affected by scary games, but this one definitely stuck with us. If you’re in the mood for a thought-provoking, surreal, and scary game; Among the Sleep might just be worth the asking price. All those on the fence however, are better off waiting for a steep discount. Worth Trying.
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Title: Among the Sleep
Developer: Krillbyte Studios
Publisher: Krillbyte Studios
Release Date: June 1st, 2014
Platform: PC, PS4
Rating: 3 out of 5 “Worth Trying”