Among the Sleep PS4 Review
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Developer: Krillbite Studio Genre: Horror
Players: 1 Age Rating: 12+ Other console/handheld formats: PS3
Taking control of a 2-year-old toddler is definitely an unusual thing in gaming, but that’s exactly what you do in Krillbite Studio’s Among the Sleep. If nothing else, they have certainly managed to capture a boy of that age, with both his wobbly movements and diminutive height being taken into consideration.
At the beginning of the game, the unnamed child is enjoying birthday celebrations with his mother, although they keep getting interrupted by different things, including an unknown visitor. The boy is also given a gift, which turns out to be a cuddly bear, or Teddy as we soon come to know him as. When the boy is put to bed that night, he wakes up in the dark and learns that Teddy has been taken from him, and thus climbs out of his overturned cot to find him. Following these events, he’s soon on the hunt for his mother instead. The story has some dark themes and remains intriguing throughout, while the friendly, talking bear gives some gentle relief from all this darkness.
As you may have already gathered, Among the Sleep is a horror game. You play as the boy from a first person perspective as you wander through eerie, nightmarish environments, with only the soft spoken Teddy for company. Teddy is certainly a shining light in the young boy’s life in more ways than one, as lovingly hugging him to your chest gives you a bit of light to see in the darker environments.
Other than walking about the dark environments, there are puzzles in the game as well, although these never come across as particularly engaging, and most are easy to solve once you have found the correct items, which is often the trickiest part. There’s nothing overly taxing here, as you piece together different memories that the boy has had with his missing mother over the course of his short life.
Largely, the environments are dark and atmospheric and fit the tone of the game, but it’s just a shame that many of them feel a bit bland. The opening section takes place entirely in the light, and there are some brilliantly bright colours here, although after that the subdued environments just seem plain and uninspiring in comparison. Don’t get me wrong, they do the job, but they just come across as rather boring for the most part.
In these dark environments, some sort of shadowy entity chases the boy, and if it catches up to you, you’ll see an instant game over screen. When the entity shows up, it’s best to hide yourself away somewhere until you are sure that the coast is clear. These encounters may not be as tense as, say, the encounters with the Xenomorph in Alien Isolation, but they are still chilling enough to raise the heartbeat.
Other positives include the way in which the boy tumbles to the ground if you sprint for too long, it’s also quicker to crawl than it is to walk, and I also liked that the boy’s short stature meant that opening a door is more of a challenge than simply walking up to the handle, forcing you to find other means in order to reach it to pull it open to see what lies behind it. When you look down and are able to see the boy’s pyjama-adorned body or when his shadow is cast on the wall, it’s also pleasing to see that he hobbles like a young boy. When out of your arms, the animations of Teddy, on the other hand, are very charismatic, and he also makes the experience seem that little less bland.
Back to more negative things though, and Among the Sleep sadly feels like a painfully short journey from start to finish. The dark adventure can be completed in just two to three hours, and replay value is lacklustre, with collectible drawings being the only real motivation to return to the game, although the rather dull environments certainly didn’t encourage an early revisit from me.
It’s a shame that Among the Sleep is such an average experience, as there are some really good ideas in its creepy and atmospheric world, and the intriguing story also carries some unusual themes. Hopefully one day we’ll get a sequel that will really show this game up as what it could have been; a game seen through the eyes of a child that feels a lot more complete than the one we have here. But for now, we have an all too brief and rather bland experience that offers some enjoyment, although it’s only truly worth playing at a reduced price.