Among the Sleep mixes childhood trauma with pure horror to create a game that looks amazing, but plays a little sluggish. You play as a small toddler that lives with his mom in a nice suburban home. While celebrating your birthday party, you mom becomes agitated by a knock at the door and argues with someone whom you assume is the estranged father.
Mom refuses to let him in, and he gives her a present. Inside the present is a sentient Teddy Bear that acts as a light and coping mechanism for the child. Fear is represented by blurred vision and hugging Teddy helps to light the way.
The goal of the game is to save mom from some unseen force by traversing surrealistic landscapes and recovering objects that act as memories. Once they’ve all been recovered, the toddler can return to his home.
What makes this game great is the atmosphere. Everything is from the perspective of the toddler who can crawl around, move objects and even run for short periods. The scares are a primal fear since everything is too large for the toddler, and he’s really helpless to do anything.
He goes from point A to B, solving the occasional puzzle in these large, sprawling worlds. He is being chased by a large feminine monster and, later, a monster in a trench coat. He has to either run away or hide from the creature or else the game is over. When they arrive, the screen blurs, creepy music ensues, and you hide until it all passes.
If you’re used to games with precise movements or acrobatics, then you’ll not like Among the Sleep. You’re in control of a toddler, not a Navy Seal, so you’re pretty limited on what you can do. The controls can be a little temperamental at times, but I guess you can chalk that up to being a little kid.
They actually did a really good job of making everything feel like you’re controlling a child. The camera is low to the ground and steps are unsteady. Developers spent a lot of time on the sound design to make everything as creepy as possible.
I suggest wearing a good pair of headphones while playing this game to get the full impact of everything. Sounds also help warn you of when the monster encroaches.
This game is all about story, and seeing everything unfold to its conclusion really pulls you along. You feel sorry for this poor kid who has to go through all this to help his mom, but eventually you understand the truth, and that’s even more heart wrenching. At its heart, Among the Sleep is a game about seeing things from the perspective of a toddler and how they process information, good and bad.