This first-person horror game from the eyes of a two year old is a great idea that never reaches its potential
System Requirements: Windows XP SP2, dual core 2.4GHz processor, 2GB RAM, 512MB VRAM, DirectX 9.0, 2GB storage
When Krillbite Studio first launched a Kickstarter campaign for Among the Sleep last year, the initial demo filled us with hope and excitement. Here was a first person horror game played through the young eyes of a two year old child, a protagonist that looked and played unlike any other first person game we’d seen.
The perspective was low to the ground, making even mundane pieces of furniture seem huge and daunting as this tiny toddler padded through his dark living room, lit by only the briefest flashes of lightning. Hushed gasps followed in his wake, along with a truly eerie soundtrack that made us feel just as unnerved as the young protagonist. It hinted at something new and fresh, but sadly Krillbite’s finished game doesn’t quite live up to those early promises.
The opening hour is as creepy as ever, and Krillbite does a fantastic job of building its haunting atmosphere. The soundtrack is outstanding, particularly when playing with headphones on, and it made us jump even when playing in broad daylight. This is not a game we’d like to play alone at night with the curtains drawn, that’s for sure.
The game starts off exploratory, gradually easing you into the controls and the sensation of crawling and climbing over things that aren’t much bigger than yourself. The camera moves and turns realistically as you scale the cushions blocking the way out of your play pen, and the sense of scale is palpable. Locked door handles loomed tantalising above us and our admittedly slightly bug-eyed mother was of almost giant proportions compared to us.
We felt suitably small in this adult world, but unfortunately this feeling didn’t last very long. As your crib is knocked over in the middle of the night and your mother goes missing, you and your talking teddy bear eventually enter a slightly dreamlike world of memories which comprise the main levels of the game. Here, objects rarely felt quite so tall as they did earlier on and the environments didn’t really feel particularly menacing.
This was partly due to the fact that there was no real sense of danger, which goes against the grain of the survival horror genre. For the most part, you’re collecting and using items in order to progress and it’s not until roughly half way through the game that you encounter your first threat. This comes in the form of a giant swamp-like troll that stalks the hallways, but there are plenty of hiding places under tables and inside barrels where it can’t get you and it’s almost too easy to keep out of its way.
Among the Sleep does try its best to scare you, though, as the screen will fuzz up and the soundtrack screeches in your ears as soon as you lay eyes on the monster, and your vision doesn’t return to normal until it’s completely out of sight. We’ve seen this before in games such as Amnesia: The Dark Descent, but unlike Amnesia, Among the Sleep’s monster rarely seems to notice you unless you’re standing right in front of it and even the child himself doesn’t really ever react to it. You don’t cry, you don’t gasp; you simply shrug it off in your stride as if it were nothing at all, and for us that really broke the illusion that we were playing as a toddler.
Your talking teddy is also underused, as his ability to light up in the dark is only ever used as a torch to help guide your way. There aren’t any puzzles that require his ability, nor does he attract the attention of this swamp troll if you light him up nearby, which feels like a wasted opportunity when the rest of the game is so thin on content elsewhere. We also encountered a few game-breaking bugs during our playthrough after launch, which meant we had to restart our game twice from the last checkpoint in order to progress properly.
Among the Sleep has an intriguing premise, but one that ultimately fails to be either rewarding or engaging to play through. With the entire game taking less than three hours to complete and have very little replay value, £15 is a lot to ask for such a short and straightforward game.