Developer: Krillbite Studios
Publisher: Krillbite Studios
Genre: Survival Horror, Action, Adventure
Platforms: PS4, PC, Xbox One
Rating: T for Teen
Among the Sleep has been described as many different things: an exploration game, survival horror, action adventure, and so on. While it is difficult to categorize, what is clear is that this Norwegian developed game has some dark themes behind it.
There is little spiritual content to note. The game focuses on avoiding characters referred to as “Banshees” and “Trenchcoats” which are portrayed as supernatual beings. The look of the characters is designed to instill fear, and therefore they clearly look the part of ghastly apparitions.
There are scenes of a violent nature, particularly in the main protagonist’s context. There is no inclusion of blood and gore, but the overall feel of the game includes some physical altercations between the characters.
There is no language used that could be considered foul.
There is no content that would be deemed sexual.
Drug / Alcohol Abuse
There are considerable references to alcohol, and a large quantity of bottles are left around the house and form a section of the game’s challenge. There are also strong links to alcoholism embedded within the story.
If trying really hard, there are some positive links to family ties within the memories, however the overall theme of the game is very negative and the positive content does not redeem it enough.
Among the Sleep plays on the innocence of childhood. For what has been described as a survival horror game, there are no weapons or any health items, but there is insta-death. You play from the perspective of a 2 year old. Your viewpoints are low, you can’t run for long before falling back into the crawl position and your imagination is very vivid.
The game’s tutorial introduces your only friend in this world, the stuffed teddy bear you acquire as your only birthday present. After he helps to teach you the basic mechanics (covering your eyes to hide, grabbing, crawling, and running) you are challenged with walking through your bedroom closet.
This is where your first instance of the horror genre is introduced: the wardrobe becomes vast, dark and with flickering lights. The coats don’t appear as such at first—only when you look directly at them do you see them for what they are. Everything moves with the intention to keep you on edge. In short, the level of suspense is high. You crawl through the closet, wondering what each sound and shape is until finally you see light at the end of the tunnel. This is also the time where one of the game’s main mechanics is introduced; hugging teddy close to you creates a glow that illuminates the surroundings, making tasks easier to complete.
After the tutorial, you are happily drifting off to sleep until you are rudely awaken to discover that you have lost your companion. A short exploration later, you are both together again and off to find your mother, who has also gone missing.
The rest of the game then focuses around collecting memories of time spent with your mother that are attached to certain objects seen during the tutorial. Once you have collected the memory, you then add it to the portal machine within the playhouse to progress to the next stage. The various stages are all slightly dark and twisted themes of everyday locations, such as the playground, which contain puzzle based progression steps before allowing you to reach the memory.
During the levels you are hounded by the specter of a “Banshee,” you get a warning when they are close, but no indication of where they are. If you are caught then it is game over. The Banshees are replaced with “Trenchcoats” in the later levels, but their premise is unchanged. Once alerted to their presence you need to hide, and quickly! There are plenty of available spaces to do so, but timing is key. There are also times when ordinary objects are used as jump scares to make you think a banshee is around. The game will also end if you fall off the edge while crossing a bridge or walking around, leaving you with a fade to black with the sound of crying.
Eventually the story is revealed and, unfortunately, this leaves a lot of unanswered questions and frustration. The story isn’t really explored in enough detail and although DLC is planned (or already available on the PC version) to provide a prologue, the amount of exposition is sparse, possibly because of the difficulty of providing it through written media, although more use of the teddy mechanic could have helped.
The game’s mechanics show promise. The teddy “torch” could have been expanded on to help remove enemies or to provide more exposition. The stealth aspects are lacking in places due partly to the lack of enemies at times but also in the mixed feelings you get while playing. You don’t want to be caught—the horror aspect takes care of that—but you also don’t feel the need to map out strategies or plan your timing. You just have to wait for hostiles to go.
Overall Among the Sleep plays well, but is lacking. The game feels like it was always ramping up to something that never comes. The jump scares are few and far between and the puzzle aspects are more of a McGuffin hunt. The gameplay is well thought out but not always intuitive—at one point I had to look up a mechanic as I had missed the text in game. The final saving grace would be the story. However, this covers a very dark theme. The final twist touches on subjects that could be considered triggering to people, however no background into this is given, and there is no closure in the characters stories. That said, it is a rarely untouched area, particularly in video games and credit has to be given to the designers for trying to touch on something so heartbreaking. I feel the frustration at the story comes more from wanting closure and more exposition which could have been included.
[amazon template=banner easy&asin=B01IPARS7Y]
The Bottom Line
An interesting take on the survival horror / puzzle game, but lacking in areas that would set it apart from its peers. The dark twist in the plot may upset some players.