The premise is an interesting one, and though the pacing could be seen as slow by some, I appreciated the slow burn buildup found in this otherwise somewhat brief horror game. Krillbrite Studio certainly knows how to build tension, and Among the Sleep is a tense exercise in horror that pays off during its short running time.
I hate to keep coming back to play duration, but it is without a doubt the most glaring concern I have with Among the Sleep. It is by no means a deal killer, but with limited replay value and a fairly short running time, I was disappointed because I wanted to experience more. That is a good sign, despite my concerns about the title's brevity.
Among the Sleep is a title that has been out on some time for both PC and the PlayStation 4, but despite my affection for horror games, I have not yet had a chance to play this one myself. Given that PY is a self-admitted chicken when it comes to horror games (sorry buddy, but you know it's true) and he thoroughly enjoyed the game when he reviewed it on PC, I was looking forward to it.
The most interesting creative choice here is to have us filling the shoes (or I suppose more appropriately, the footed pajamas) of a toddler who has just received a teddy bare for his first birthday. This unique choice in character control works well for a couple of reasons. Psychologically, children have all kinds of interesting fears. Some of my most vivid memories are still from when I was a little kid. The play of light and shadows tickle a child's imagination in ways that a seasoned adult seldom experiences (except maybe PY. Sorry man, I'll stop picking on your fear of like... the horror genre now). There is also the physical perspective. A toddling, crawling child sees the world for bigger than it is. Their line of sight is obscured by things we as adults tend to take for granted. These are refreshing elements that are baked into Among the Sleep due to its unique choice in protagonist and really helps to sell the atmosphere within.
The tale starts innocently enough as you experience a nice dinner and are set into your playpen for the night with your new teddy bear. However, a bloodcurdling scream jolts us awake as we try to find our mother through a variety of crazy environments. Oh, and your newfound teddy bear is also alive now. So again, creepy. The environments and slow, rambling monsters are the stuff right out of a child's nightmares, so this woven together with a spectacularly creepy sound design help to make a memorable experience.
However, the game itself does come with limitations. As you are a toddler, you have no real means of protecting yourself aside from crawling out of the enemy line of sight. There are times that death comes quickly and almost unfairly enough to frustrate, but it does help to sell the sense of helplessness that is necessary to make the game scary enough. There are some light puzzle elements built into the environments that are generally easy to navigate through but when combined with the enemies to be avoided help to make Among the Sleep a proper game and not just a walking simulator.
The deaths that occur will lengthen your playtime, but I would guess everyone should be able to beat the game in about two to three hours, which leads us back to my opening thoughts. I really enjoyed the way the development team leveraged our toddler as a protagonist. It is a unique twist that works very well within the environment designs and plays with the notion that children really have very little understanding of their world or an ability to protect themselves, making the world a big and scary place. If anything the task is handled so well the majority of the time that I wish there was more of it, but what is here makes for a solid horror experience.
Article by Nick