When you are two years old, the world can be a scary place, especially in the dark, with furniture and toys skewing and distorting in the dwindling illumination of the twilight hours. Krillbite Studio has elaborated and preyed upon this primal adolescent fear in Among the Sleep.
You are placed in the role of a toddler who, having just celebrated his birthday with his mother, is placed in his playpen while your mother deals with unexpected visitors and telephone calls. This area acts as your introduction to the primary controls and characters as you escape from your playpen utilising strategically placed soft toys and furnishings, and meet Teddy; your sentient stuffed companion who you received as a birthday present. After a short adventure with Teddy in your wardrobe, where you begin to see a dark and ominous presence to the house, you are put down to bed for the night by your mother.
You are awoken in the night to find that Teddy has gone, and your crib has been toppled. Navigating the ominous hallways of your new home, you are able to recover Teddy who leads you to investigate what is happening within the house and discover where your mother has gone.
As a toddler, most of the environment is disproportionate and the simple act of opening a door requires a little bit more forethought and planning than it would for an adult. These minor puzzles form part of the challenge that you face during the game, with the simple act of moving around the house as a knee high rugrat requiring you to think about how you can manipulate the environment to suit your needs.
Combat is non-existent, (not surprising given the games protagonist is a 2 year old), and as such the game focuses more on exploration and evasion of the hostile entities populating your world. To this end, the controls are extremely simple and utilises a basic first person control scheme. The left and right sticks control your movement and view respectively, with the trigger providing a burst of speed to your normal toddling movement. This additional speed is only available temporarily and like most infants, you will tumble to the ground once it expires. On the ground though, you have access to the crawling movement which, surprisingly, is the one that is the most consistent and speedy of the three.
With the narrative being focused on the adolescent fear of the dark, one of the key abilities you have available to use is the bear hug. As you move through the world with Teddy by your side, you will encounter some areas totally obscured in darkness. When you delve into these darkened recesses, holding teddy close allows you to generate enough light to beat back the gloom. This ability is available infinitely, but it does prevent you from sprinting or crawling, and reduces your normal walking speed significantly.
The narrative is very simplistic, obvious considering the lack of vocalisation on your characters behalf, yet this is fleshed out by the voice acting for the other characters and given its character limitations actually proves to be a significant driving force in pushing forward the game. You would be forgiven for thinking that the overall story would keep true to the opening thematic, but the story conclusion was both surprising and hauntingly solemn.
Among The Sleep provides a surprisingly satisfying little puzzle game that, even though it is deemed as survival horror, is not particularly scary. For those looking for something a little different, this supplies a unique experience to while away several hours.
Midlife Gamer Rating: 7/10 Format: PlayStation 4 / Xbox One / PC Release Date: Out Now
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Among The Sleep by the publisher for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of a week. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.