Now, I normally don’t review games. Especially alpha builds, as they don’t represent the quality of a finished game by any means. But I have literally just finished playing the alpha of Among The Sleep, and I had to talk about it.
Among The Sleep is a first person survival horror game, in the vein of Slender or Amnesia: The Dark Descent. However, where Among The Sleep differentiates itself from the rest of the pack is that the player character is a two year old. While this might conjure up notions of a poor toddler getting torn to pieces, what I played of the game seemed, while scary, very safe. Maybe that’s a poor choice of words. While I was terrified throughout my play time, I never felt like I was about to be eviscerated, which is bizarre considering the character is the most vulnerable character I’ve played as in my fairly long gaming history.
The game is extremely atmospheric, and while it mostly takes place in a standard suburban house, the scale of the surroundings add to the tension, every chair and chest of drawers a veritable mountain to climb. The game is full of interesting little touches, such as having to actually get high enough to use a door handle on a closed door (which it appears will up a fair slice of the gameplay in the finished version, but is interesting enough not to get too repetitive.) It’s the small details that make a game, and Among The Sleep is stuffed with them, from the toys dotted around the house that can be interacted with, to the brief animation before the pause menu, when the character covers his eyes with his hands, making the world go away.
The only thing you have in your arsenal (in this alpha at least) is a teddy bear. A quick press of the appropriate button sees you cuddle teddy, and he lights up, acting as a torch for the darker areas of the game. However while the light is on, you are unable to interact with the environment, which echoes Doom 3‘s torch or gun mechanic, but it works here, the game lacking the quick fire-fights which plagued Doom 3′s torchless hell. The only other control of note is a toggle between crawl and walk, crawling is faster, and good for hiding in and under things (alluded to in the game’s trailer, but never what you’re hiding from). Walking makes interacting with things a tiny bit easier, and lets you climb, which is needed to get through most of the game’s height based puzzles.
The key part of any survival horror game is of course, the horror. This is where Among The Sleep might fall down. The alpha takes place in a suburban home, and it’s pretty scary. The noise coming from behind doors, the thunder outside and even the size of the surroundings and furniture all amp up the tension. However, after a brief bit of exploration (and perhaps one or two slightly scarier moments, no spoilers), it all gets a bit weird. What looks like a rod hot-pipe and a long slide down led to an area that I literally said out loud at “Holy hell, I’m in Silent Hill!” Industrial setting, a street with sinister play things on it and creepy abandoned house at the end of it all. The whole thing was one abandoned and bloodied wheel chair away from being liable to a lawsuit.
At the end of it all, a trailer plays showing areas from the rest of the game, and there appeared to be a forest, a creepy mansion type setting and some flashes of other small areas. It’s possible the “normal” house is a hub area, and the locked doors within hiding the other locales. It’s not a unique setup by any stretch of the imagination, but it works and if it ain’t broke and all that.
Among The Sleep was a Kickstarter which recently passed its funding goal, and the game seems to be popular on Steam Greenlight right now, so it stands a chance of being a fairly big deal when it releases towards the latter half of the year. Which is good, it’s a unique take on a familiar genre, and if the full shows the same flashes of brilliance seen in the alpha, then this could wind up being the sleeper indie hit of the year. I’d recommend people play the game, but as always, your mileage may vary. Perhaps the game isn’t scary and I’m a massive coward? I mean I only managed to get through Silent Hill from the PS1 days very recently, and I first picked that up back in the 90s. Maybe I shouldn’t be reviewing survival horror. Oh well. Comment people!