Among the Sleep

Horror is not a genre I generally delve into when it comes to my game playing. This isn’t because I don’t appreciate the genre, but the contrary; I revere it. I revere it for it’s ability to invoke fear, to send small shivers down my spine, to build suspense and tension, to cause me to whimper. Horror games do this a number of ways, like using a combination of good level design and timing to build suspense and tension, introducing the horror elements at just the right moments. They can make use of the player’s imagination by keeping things hidden, using mystery and again, tension. Often horror games disempower (not to be confused with disembowel, because they do that too), taking away your sense of security, or your ability to fight. I’m not a huge fan of horror games because my imagination often gets the better of me anyway, it doesn’t need assistance, I am easily startled and most of all, I don’t like the sense of disempowerment in a game. And you don’t get much more dismepowered than being a 2-year old in a dark, terrifying house with your own imagination running wild.

Among the Sleep is a first-person, atmospheric horror adventure game for the perspective of a 2-year old child. Everything is huge. Crawling and staggered walking are integral to how you move around. Your childlike imagination is incredibly active. Norwegian developer, Krillbite Studio, have done an amazing job at placing you in the onesie of a toddler and then subsequently placing you in a night where everything is going bump.

In the middle of the night of your second birthday, you wake up to strange noises in your house. You then see your new teddy bear taken from your cot by an invisible entity who then knocks over your cot. After a terrifying trek downstairs, you find your teddy bear in the dryer, but together you fail to find your mother in her own bed. So begins a journey to find your mother somewhere in the imaginatively-perceived nightmare that is a house at night.

A talking, walking teddy bear? KILL IT WITH FIRE!
A talking, walking teddy bear? KILL IT WITH FIRE!

Among the Sleep uses a whole arsenal of horror techniques to keep you sweating and on the edge of your seat. As I mentioned, it is an atmospheric horror game. A dark house on a stormy night full of creaks, with the faint noise of a plate breaking or muffled voices can be terrifying. Especially at first when you’re wandering through the house as doors creak open behind you, the sound of heavy footsteps echo throughout the house, and there are shadows framing what I assumed at the time were burly, axe-wielding convicts. I would advise playing the game slightly brighter than recommended setting. Not because I’m a coward, but more because the recommended gamma setting was too dark and I couldn’t actually see what I was doing. Though the game does provides a solution to this. There is a “Hug Teddy” button which causes Teddy to light up, softly illuminating the darkness around you.

The scariest aspect of this game is the fact you are just a two-year old toddler with all the capabilities of a toddler. The gameplay and level design is cleverly dictated by this as much of the game will require you to move boxes around or open drawers to create ‘staircases’ to certain areas, as well as crawling under tables or stowing away in closets to hide. Sometimes you have to be very quiet and when there’s a corridor full of precariously balanced bottles… and you’re a baby… well you’re screwed. It even plays with the idea that toddlers love opening doors. It’s like an episode of Rugrats as directed by Tim Burton.

I'm just going to stay under here and watch the interesting, ghost-infected TV... wait, that was Poltergeist.
I’m just going to stay under here and watch the interesting, ghost-infected TV… wait, that was Poltergeist.

The controls are simple. You can switch between crawling and walking, crawling being faster than walking, but running being faster than both. But you can only run for a short distance before falling down. You can more easily move stuff using the mouse while standing since your hands are free (and sometimes you take so long to stand up!). You can even cover your eyes by pressing escape (goes to the menu). Among the Sleep seamlessly merges gameplay and story by having a toddler protagonist, drawing you further into the spooky setting.

The game isn’t perfect as I encountered small bugs every now and then, mostly with objects half in walls and little things like that. There’s an inventory system which is entirely unnecessary as you never have more than two objects a time and they only ever have one use (now that I think about it, all the inventory objects were keys). The game wasn’t overly challenging and I managed to finish it in 6 hours, and that was being overly-cautions and constantly darting back underneath things while crying… in the game.

As I mentioned, I’m not a huge fan of horror games due to being a bit flighty and preferring games that empower. But I still enjoyed the horror in Among the Sleep academically. Having you play a toddler was an interesting game elements that I’ve never seen it before and thoroughly enjoyed. The game might seem steep in price for a 5-6 hour game, but you pay more for a 2 hour movie, and a lot more for games that that far less unique and well-thought out.

Among the Sleep is currently available on Steam, GOG.com and The Humble Store for $19.99.

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Next review in 3 weeks will be The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing

Next time

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