Horror games have seem a resurgence as of late. There was a time in the last few years where it seemed like every self respecting horror title turned action trying to please as many people as possible. Then came the indie games and the streams of people losing their minds, and the horror genre suddenly came back from the dead.
I for one, couldn't be happier to see these exciting new indie horror games trying new things left and right. Today we're here to discuss the Kickstarter-backed horror game where you play as a toddler forced to face his nightmares. Welcome, to Among the Sleep. It's time to find out if this is fresh perspective adds to the horror, of if this game needs to be put back in its crib for a long nap.
A Familiar Theme From a New Perspective
Among the Sleep tries to ingrain itself as one of several games that deal with family issues in a fantastical (or in this case horrific) way. The entire game is a metaphor for something rooted in reality which I will of course not give away here.
You play as a 2-year-old boy with your only companion being a talking teddy bear. When the young boy gets scared, he can hug the bear tightly to produce a warm glow in times of trouble.
The game starts innocently enough, but it soon takes a turn for the scary as you start exploring your house at night. The atmosphere hangs heavy all around you as you awkwardly walk through the areas. The team at Krillbite Studio did an awesome job of making it look and feel like you're this tiny person.
Objects are you are appropriately tall and hamper your progress in a number of ways. You'll need to solve basic puzzles to overcome these situations. As you walk around, the camera sways and tilts with each unsure step. Running forward for too long will cause you to fall over into a crawling position.
That's right, instead of crouching like you would in other first person games, you crawl instead. Your tiny hands reach out in front of you with each movement, only adding to the immersion.
As you play through the short experience (2 hours or so), you'll be taken to several nightmare dream spaces that set the tone nicely. Your only real enemy in the game is a terrifying woman creature that stalks you in certain areas. Being spotted by her will force you to run and hide or face a checkpoint reset.
Like I said, the game is short, but there have been other titles released lately for a similar price point ($14.99) with similar lengths that didn't receive too much flak for it. Personally, I think this one could have been another hour or two in length and added more story to make us care for the characters, but as it stands, you reach an ending that is both sad and sudden.
It's an interesting idea, and it has moments of fear, but the overall experience leaves a lot to be desired. You wish that they had more time and ambition to explore the idea further. It feels like a finished product, but one that could have had more depth.
Run and Hide, Nothing to See Here
A vast portion of horror games these days have relied on trying to scare you through adrenaline fueled chases and long moments of hiding and sneaking. For me, stealthy horror has never really worked. Yes, it's scary, but ultimately it leaves you feeling exhausted and drained by the end.
There's so much more you can do with horror games that doesn't involve jump scares or a cheap monster killing you. Layers of Fear, for example, taught that psychological horror can be far more effective.
That's my biggest issue with Among the Sleep and many other horror games in general. They rely too much on stealth and hiding. Elements like those are cool, but when you're entire game relies on them, you're leaving so many other scare tactics on the cutting room floor.
Among the Sleep does benefits from a unique perspective which drives a lot of the puzzles and gives you more places to hide since you can crawl into small spaces. Even with this added help from the perspective, though, the old monster chasing you scare leaves a lot to be desired.
Graphics That do the Trick and Little Else
I've heard that the Unity Engine (which powers Among the Sleep) has difficulty doing faces properly. One of the first things you see in the game is your mother, and oh boy does she look weird. The game's graphics are a simple style that conveys your surroundings just fine, but doesn't go much past an average look.
Later areas in the game offer some interesting designs, but none of them really pop in terms of their look or feel. They look nice to be sure, but you're never entirely sure why you're there. It doesn't help that the environments are slightly bare in terms of what's happening and what you can interact with.
It's not bad, but it doesn't strike you as particularly great either. That phrase completely describes Among the Sleep, actually. It's a solid horror title with a unique premise, but a super short length and not a lot of innovation outside the perspective weighs it down.
If you're endlessly fascinated with it, I recommend trying it out. Otherwise grab it for cheap on a sale and play it with your friends for a good old time. It may not be perfect, but it's worth playing if you're a fan of horror and you want something with a different premise than the other offerings. I've heard plenty of rumors that the title is also coming to PlayStation VR at some point, and if that happens, you should absolutely give it a shot.
Final Verdict: 7.0/10
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert Date: 02/25/2016