Game: Among The Sleep: Enhanced Edition
System: Nintendo Switch (also available on Xbox and PS4)
Genre: Action-Adventure, Puzzle, Survival
Developer| Publisher: Krillbite Studio|Soedesco
Price: $29.99 | €24,99 | £19.99
Age Rating: USA: Teen | EU: 16+
Release Date: May 29, 2019
Review code kindly provided by Soedesco
Originally released for the PC in 2014, Among The Sleep was remastered and its definitive “enhanced” edition is now on the Nintendo Switch (both in the physical form and the eShop). It’s a first-person exploration, action-adventure game with horror elements.
You are a toddler who just celebrated your second birthday at home with your mom. She gives you a gift of a teddy-bear up in your room and leaves you to play with him. Teddy, it turns out, is not merely a toy, but a sentient being with a friendly, curious nature. Pretty soon he will be your constant companion as you wander through surreal and distorted surroundings. You find yourselves alone together shortly after the birthday celebration, while your mom is now missing!
Playtime And Pajamas
The player’s adventure really begins once you meet your new friend, Teddy. You’ve been brought upstairs to your playroom, while your mom goes to answer the telephone. It’s a brightly-colored, pleasant space filled with hazy sunshine and lots of toys, a happy room. Teddy soon enlists you to play a game of hide-and-seek with a stuffed elephant. Then he has you inspect some nearby items. There’s a music box high up on a shelf, that you reach by climbing up on dresser drawers. You play with a train after activating its switch with guidance from Teddy.
He next instructs you to open a wardrobe and go inside it with him. He wants you to close both doors tightly behind you. (Okay..wonder where he’s going with this ploy.) Then he shows you how you can hug him tight for comfort, if you become scared in the dark. This will illuminate Teddy, acting as a sort of flashlight later. All of the above serves as a tutorial in how to interact with your environment. A big part of the game is point-and-click. When you move the cursor, a small hand icon will pop up on screen if there’s an object you can manipulate. The bulk of these interactions involve opening closed doors (some with latches), pulling out drawers for reaching high spots, and later, collecting key items.
Before you know it, playtime is over and your mom has come back to find you hidden. She picks you and Teddy up out of the wardrobe closet and puts you both to bed. As you drift off to sleep, all is well in your little world. Or, is it?
Strange Things Are Afoot
Suddenly, you awaken from slumber to a disturbance in the room. An unseen (malevolent?) force is lifting Teddy out of the crib and away. It tips your crib over onto its side, which means you’re now able to freely roam about. Shortly after, you reunite with Teddy, but your mom is nowhere to be found. Your moon-and-stars-pajama-clad character has just stumbled into a mystery. The once comforting house is mostly pitch-dark now, and strange. Things are definitely not as they should be..
In Among the Sleep, it is a mostly linear adventure, one that can be somewhat repetitive. You make your way through one darkened room or area after another. There are looming shadows or mundane things that look creepy in the night. (At one point, a cloaked coat-rack seems to be a freaky-tall wraith peering down at you.) The game doesn’t boast a soundtrack, but instead there are odd ambient sounds all around. The overall effect of these atmospherics is perhaps spooky, but I never knew I was actually supposed to be scared. It wasn’t until a good bit into my playthrough that I encountered a “fright” – from a jump-scare – when something menacing leapt out at me. (I know I yelled something, but can’t remember what.)
At certain points, Teddy will suddenly exclaim in hushed, nervous tones. He often implores you to be careful and quiet. Perhaps he’s aware of something lurking that hasn’t revealed itself. Aside from walking, crawling, climbing, and running (which you can do for shorter bursts), you can peer around corners. This is a feature I didn’t really use much. That was probably due to the fact nothing too disturbing happened until I’d played a fair amount. So I boldly ventured forward unafraid, that is until I learned the player can get “hurt.” There are chasms and drops throughout the game, or gaping holes in rotted flooring. I must’ve been lucky in my wobbly steps, as I never fell in places I shouldn’t, for hours into it. Once I did fall, there were ominous sounds of something breaking fatally, then you restart nearby.
Dreamscapes and Memories
Along your way, you will sometimes come across discarded crayon drawings on paper. By reaching out & grabbing them, they disappear and act as “save” points. Or, it will automatically save on occasion, when you clear an obstacle. To my dismay, there is no quick-save feature. (Today there should be no adventure or story game made without one.) The problem I came across was that the automatic save point proved unreliable. If you happen to meet a quick demise, but keep playing, you’re put back where you need to be. However, there were times I completed a series of tasks, saw my progress saved, and exited the game, only to come back to it later and find I needed to re-do them. The game isn’t so terribly difficult though that this is a major issue.
You will explore both the inside of the house and the woods outside, wending your way back into and out of the house numerous times. Eventually you and Teddy come to a storybook playhouse, which becomes a sort of hub in your journey. In it, there is a “portal” door that leads to new places, but only once you activate it. The door has several containers attached to it where special objects, called memories, are placed inside. You are tasked with finding these new memories and returning to the playhouse with them. Each time you locate one, you faintly hear the disembodied voice of your mom. It’s like a recorded memory from the past being replayed.
It’s hard to know what’s really happening in these parts. Is this eerie, dreamlike world the real one, corrupted by an unseen menace? Or is it all the product of a toddler’s vivid imagination, possibly the child’s nightmare? It’s not clear, but I’m leaning toward the latter, based off the title hint. To find that out, and hopefully find your mom unharmed, is the goal. Getting there can be a bit confusing. There is no map in the game and you can lose your bearings quickly. Sometimes it’s so dark on the screen, that you can barely make anything out at all. You can find yourself going in circles, blindly. Even hugging Teddy provides very little clarity, just a meager amount of light close to your form. I found my way through for the most part, after a lot of squinting.
Among The Sleep imagines what it’s like to see through a very small child’s eyes. Most of us have long forgotten, so it’s a fresh take on a first-person adventure/survival game. I’ve always been partial to psychological thrillers, more than straight horror, so I was excited to step into it. There’s certainly nothing gory or too objectionable in it. It might not be for the easily rattled, unless you don’t mind the occasional startle. 😛 The game relies mainly on atmosphere and tension to create the unsettling feeling, which it mostly succeeds at. Where it falls short is in the limited scope and lack of depth in quests, plus the poor visibility issue. It often seemed more like wandering than exploring. I did enjoy finding the memories and the satisfaction of placing found objects in their rightful place. Sadly, I didn’t feel connected to the story as I should’ve been.
Therefore, I give Among The Sleep an “I’m not sure” score.