I need to point something out, right from the outset. Survival, tense, horror titles are not my bag. I’m too laid back for the predictability of the inevitable jump-scare. That being said, the look on some player’s faces when they stream is quite amusing, but as a player, I don’t get it. Will Krillbite’s Among the Sleep change my mind on this score?
Among the Sleep is a first-person horror adventure in which you play a two year old child. You have a nice life, eating, pooping, sleeping, but something is starting to feel wrong. After a short preamble with your mommy, it’s time to go and play in your room. Here you are introduced to figuring out how your limbs work and the various things that you can and can’t do as onesie-clad toddler.
There’s an achievement to be had in this section, if you’re canny about it, but that’s probably the easiest set of gamer points you’re going to get here. In the course of finding your feet you can explore your room and all of the interesting and exciting toys it contains. Here you’ll be introduced to Teddy. Teddy is your comfort blanket. Oddly, for a Teddy, he talks, but isn’t as foul mouthed as certain other teddies I could mention. Teddy is quite handy in the way that he gives you some hints and tips at certain stages throughout the game. He also glows when you hug him, which is very handy in very dark places.
With the control familiarisation section out of the way, it’s time to go to sleep and mommy comes in to put you sleepily to bed. Something is happening though. That feeling you had in the preamble, well, it’s back and it’s got Teddy. After dragging Teddy out of the cot and making off with him, it then tips you out and you’re left awake and wondering what to do now.
Your first mission is to rescue Teddy and to do this, you have to wander around the house in the dark during a thunderstorm. There’s the usual lightning flashes and thunder rolls to create the mood and there are some corner of the eye type effects as you explore the house, looking to rescue Teddy and then find mommy so that everything is OK.
So, after rescuing Teddy, you’re left again, to wander around the house on your own in an effort to find mommy. The house itself is a mess. Something has come through there, messing with the order and breaking items on the way through, scattering collectables as it goes. Find all of the child’s pictures if you can, you’ll be rewarded if you do. Going through here, you’ll be able to pick things up and move them around, open drawers and climb. It’s pretty much an open world to wander about in and there’s no sense of danger as nothing will hurt you here. I even had a little fun putting baby into the corner with no interference from Patrick Swayze.
The pickup command offers you the opportunity not just to grab useful items, it also allows you to push and pull items into more useful places. A footstool in the right place for example could be handy for those high, hard to reach items, like door handles. This part of the game, as long as you remember to pick up those drawings, is not taxing at all.
In fact, I’m afraid to say that the remainder of the title didn’t seem to be taxing either. The graphics are atmospheric, dark and foreboding. They introduce that sense of fear but not in a way that makes the game any more threatening than similar titles. There’s a variety of clever effects as you go through the rest of the game, such as two-way paintings, lifting windows and pull-out tree trunks to help you navigate this semi-nightmare world. The paintings even give you hints on how to solve the puzzles you’ll be facing in a lenticular kind of way, which sort of defeats the object a little.
The majority of puzzles that you’ll have to solve will lead you to find a shared memory that will then allow you to find mommy. Throughout this, the game throws little bits at you to try to heighten the tension. Balls come at you as you pass slides, books fall from the ceiling, that kind of thing. In truth, they were a little lost in the dark graphics for me and I ended up having to wander over in an effort to satisfy my curiosity about what had just happened.
The background to all of this is a slightly creepy incidental music which, in the later stages, gets more and more frantic as an approaching Slender-type nightmare creature gets closer. There are other atmospheric touches to the game as well. The TV that gets left on fizzes nicely, but also continues to fizz even after you’ve turned it off and mommy herself can be heard calling out to you in the background as you wander around.
Each set of levels seems to place you in and around some part of the house, although it appears to be dilapidated and as you progress the previously mentioned nightmare creature is stalking the halls. You’ll get fair warning on when this is near, however, with a Slender-style screen glitch effect when you’re about to get grabbed. The good thing about Among the Sleep is that unlike Slender, you can hide. Crawl under desks, chairs and tables or into tunnels and barrels where Nanny McScary can’t find you.
In summing Among the Sleep up, it’s a horror adventure, with the horror part being more than a little tongue in cheek. The puzzles aren’t particularly challenging if I’m honest, and although the game is well presented and sounds atmospheric, it didn’t really push my buttons when it came to getting my pulse racing and my paranoia up to tin foil hat levels. The story is touching and will pull on the heartstrings a little, but if you’re looking for that heart in the mouth experience then this probably isn’t that title. The story itself is a little on the short side and there’s no real replay value in the game, which is a shame.
Thanks to Krillbite and Xbox for supporting TiX