Review: Among the Sleep
Among the Sleep opens with a knock at the door that interrupts your birthday celebration. Someone’s arrived with a gift for you and, for whatever reason, are not allowed inside. Who this person is remains a mystery, but it’s easy to piece together as you progress through the game. Moments later their gift for you is revealed to be a walking and talking stuffed bear that’ll serve to be your guide over the next couple hours.
Among the Sleep starts out strong. Your mother is missing and you, a young toddler, are left alone to freely explore a dark and spooky house. Part of the draw to Among the Sleep for me is in the way everyday things can be portrayed as something horrific to a young child. There’s a moment early on where you walk into the hallway and see a coat rack to the left. The coat rack features a coat, some shoes nearby, and a hat positioned towards the top. The game doesn’t do anything special to distort it, but it’s the perfect example of why Among the Sleep has so much potential. That coat rack LOOKS like an intruder. It LOOKS like something that shouldn’t be there. The house features a handful of these moments and they work really well. Unfortunately the game drifts away from that into more typical horror game environments.
Most of your traversal through the game relies on the idea that you’re playing as a small child. Specifically a child that’s only recently started walking. Crawling is a much faster way to get around and climbing on top of shelves, tables, and chairs is often required to reach key items. There’s a few light puzzles throughout the game that focuses on using toys that might feel familiar to a young child. Things like jigsaw puzzles, different shaped blocks functioning as keys, and stuffed animals. There’s also a heavy emphasis on exploring each environment with your new friend. Something I really appreciate is the way the bear functions as a safety tool. You can hug the bear tight whenever things get dark or scary and a small light will glow around it. It’s not as strong as a flashlight, but it gets the job done. Hugging the bear and directly facing an enemy also proved useful as it warded off the oncoming threat.
After the opening minutes of exploration the game takes you outside of the house and into some sort of otherworldy place. There’s a small playhouse positioned in the midst of nothingness that serves as a bit of a hub area. The playhouse is used as a portal that leads to a few different environments dependent upon certain key items found throughout the game. My biggest gripe with Among the Sleep is that the majority of the game features environments that feel like they could be in any other horror game. There’s some great atmosphere throughout the game and the creature design is genuinely fantastic, but too often I forgot my character was just a toddler. I loved how the opening takes your height, age, and world view into consideration. The rest of the game, with a few exceptions, tends to forget that.
It’s not too hard to figure out what’s going on pretty early in the game. Most of the story is delivered through little collectible drawings and short memory sequences at the end of each level. It’s an interesting story and fits with the overall theme of the game, but it didn’t feel all that impactful to me. More time to flesh out the characterizations of the mom and the teddy bear could probably help in that area.
A horror game with a controllable toddler is a fantastic concept. Unfortunately Among the Sleep doesn’t quite go all the way with it. There’s a lot of promise early on with the first level, but things slowly fizzle out towards the end. Ultimately Among the Sleep didn’t leave the impact I was hoping for, but instead feels like a missed opportunity.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Atmosphere and creature design
- Opening of the game is great
- Hugging the bear for protection
What I Dislike:
- Gets away from the unique premise
- Not a very memorable story