Among the Sleep is a 3D first-person adventure game released by Krillbite Studio, a Norwegian game developer, in May 2014. It is available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, MacOS , and Linux. It is a single player game where you play as a toddler, perceiving the world the way a baby does as you try to navigate your way around your house.
The objective of Among the Sleep is very simple. You navigate your way through a series of connected rooms, collecting different items that you associate with your mother, known as ‘Memories’, that you then bring back to your playhouse. With the help of your teddy bear, you collect all the ‘Memories’ and use them to open a door that will lead you to your mother. With every memory you add to the door, the sound of your mother’s lullaby gets louder, indicating that you are progressing through the game.
You begin the game in the kitchen, celebrating your second birthday as your mother feeds you cake. There is a knock at the door and when your mother answers she begins yelling at someone, presumably your father. This kicks off your first experience of fear. When something happens to scare you in-game your vision blurs, the controller shakes, and you hear a loud screeching noise. This happens at different points throughout the game, usually to indicate a monster is coming after you.
There are two distinct monsters that pursue you. The first monster is a tall, thin creature with long hair and claws. This is the monster you see through most of the game. The second monster appears in a trench coat with glowing white eyes. There is no way to escape the monsters once they have caught you, all you can do is outrun them or hide under benches, bookcases, or in cupboards and wait for them to disappear. When you are caught by one of the monsters a short scene plays of you struggling in their grasp and then you are taken to a screen that says, Continue Story. Pressing A will take you to your last save. Other ways of ‘dying’ in-game include falling from very high places or into water.
The mechanics of the gameplay are simple and efficient. You press A to climb or B to crawl or stand up. If you hold RB you can sprint but you will eventually fall down if you do this. Crawling is the fastest way to get around but when in crawl mode you can’t use your teddy to light up your surroundings. Using either LT or RT to lean around corners is useful for checking for monsters but I found in my playthrough I never needed to use this function. Pressing Y opens your inventory where you can view ‘Memories’ or objects that you have collected and select them for use. When you press the menu button on your controller you ‘cover your eyes’ which pauses the game and allows you to quit, load from your last checkpoint, or alter your game setting such as brightness, controller vibration, and subtitles.
Being 3D gives a dynamic and immersive feel to the game. Picking up items and being able to rotate and examine them helps the player gather information about the story and how the items are to be utilized. The bold, brilliant colors of your house during the daytime helps the player to make connections that certain places, such as your playhouse and the spots you find ‘memories’ of your mother in, are safe points where you can spend long periods of time. The locations shrouded in shadows and surreally twisted versions of everyday objects are definitely where you shouldn’t linger for too long.
Some of my favorite locations in-game are the Playground, where you search for owl figures to help you climb a tower, and what I call the Corridor which I believe represents the landing of the house in the child’s mind. The Playground is where the game begins to sow its seeds of unrest in the player once they have entered the nightmare.
Among the Sleep doesn’t present a set musical soundtrack throughout the game but instead sets the scene with sound effects fitting the situation. In lew of music we can hear thunder, wind, footsteps, screeching, creaking, and on occasion a slowed down version of your mother’s lullaby. In the Playground, a roundabout turns slowly emitting a rusty creak. A ball bounces down an abandoned slide, each hollow thunk puncturing the silence around you. A gust of wind sets a toy horse rocking on its spring, giving you the sense that you aren’t alone in this place and something is surely watching you.
In the Corridor, an ever stretching mass of wooden panels and mismatched doors, every noise is a scream. Each door you open could lead you to either safety or right into the path of a monster. Some doors lead to passages and steps while others are dead ends or sudden drops. The violent slam of a door in the corner of your eye followed by a slow loud creak as it opens again expertly draws the player in, making each scare feel more urgent and real as the game goes on.
The use of artwork in-game is implemented in a very clever way. As you play you come across various drawings you have made at some point before the game started. You can collect each of these drawings as you progress, earning an achievement if you collect all of them. You also find many scribblings on walls throughout the game. They seem to tell the story of your parent’s divorce and your mother’s abusive nature, which isn’t fully revealed until the end of the game. The drawings of your mother bare a strong resemblance to the tall, clawed monster you encounter through the game which leads me to believe the monsters are representations of your parents.
I found Among the Sleep to run very well on Xbox One. It ran at 60 fps and noticed no frame drops. The game loaded very quickly and never crashed.
I personally really enjoyed this game but would be lying if I didn’t say it genuinely scared me at times. Perhaps playing it in the dark at 4 am wasn’t wise but there was a moment when I was hiding under a bed in-game and a pair of boots hit the floor at the same time lightning struck. My heart was racing so badly I had to play with the lights on from then on. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the twists of the game. At a 3 hour run time and retailing for about $25, I consider Among the Sleep a good investment.
I will definitely be playing this game again in the future.