Among The Sleep

PC, PS4

EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher/de­vel­oper Krill­bite Stu­dio For­mat PC (ver­sion tested), PS4 Re­lease Out now (PS4 TBA)

Hav­ing wan­dered the cor­ri­dors of so many haunted asy­lums of late, en­coun­ter­ing Among The Sleep’s fresh take on videogame hor­ror comes as some­thing of a re­lief. You spend your time mov­ing be­tween a sur­real imag­ined world and a sub­ur­ban house, both equally un­fa­mil­iar thanks to Krill­bite Stu­dio’s mas­ter­stroke: cast­ing you as a two-year-old child.

Ap­pro­pri­ately, the fastest way to get around is to crawl. You can walk or run, but at­tempt­ing to sus­tain the lat­ter for long will see you top­ple onto all fours. It’s also pos­si­ble to grab, drag or throw ob­jects, which feel suit­ably heavy for a tod­dler. Look­ing down at your feet or catch­ing sight of your shadow – all steady­ing arms and pre­car­i­ous gait – is a con­tin­ual de­light.

You’re ac­com­pa­nied through­out by Teddy, a gift re­ceived on your sec­ond birth­day that has come to life. He spends most of the time rid­ing on your back, guid­ing the way, but glows when hugged to light up dark ar­eas. His ner­vous nar­ra­tion adds an­other layer of un­ease, while his chil­dren’s-TV-pre­sen­ter in­to­na­tion and un­blink­ing, sewed-on eyes lend him the air of a vi­car­i­ous ar­son­ist en­cour­ag­ing you to light the match.

Among The Sleep mixes ex­plo­ration with sim­ple phys­i­cal puzzle solv­ing – find­ing sev­eral toy owls to weigh down a see-saw so you can reach a plat­form, for ex­am­ple – as you search for your mother, who dis­ap­peared on the evening of your birth­day. To find her, you must first hunt down trin­kets that rep­re­sent a shared mem­ory. Each is hid­den in its own night­mar­ish land pop­u­lated by dis­tor­tions of the fa­mil­iar – such as a mem­o­rable bureau with Dalí-es­que spindly legs – and your stature makes ev­ery­thing loom threat­en­ingly large.

Each foray into these worlds is made all the more op­pres­sive by the back­ground noise of echo­ing lul­la­bies and cry­ing chil­dren, and a mys­te­ri­ous crea­ture pa­trols some ar­eas, too. Play­ing on child­hood fears, it must be avoided by hid­ing un­der fur­ni­ture or in cup­boards, but poses no real threat so long as you are care­ful. A se­quence later on, how­ever, in which you must avoid top­pling tow­ers of play bricks so as not to alert it to your po­si­tion, proves ex­cep­tion­ally tense.

Among The Sleep is cer­tainly un­nerv­ing, but play­ing as a tod­dler gives you li­cence to be bold; a two-year-old wouldn’t be scared of ven­tur­ing into the base­ment, so why should you be? It’s a cu­ri­ous ef­fect, but one put into con­text later on when what ap­pears to be a tale of su­per­nat­u­ral ab­duc­tion turns out to be some­thing al­to­gether more hor­ri­fy­ing. The rev­e­la­tory fi­nale will leave you winded, but also heart­ened by Krill­bite’s as­ser­tion that first­per­son hor­ror needn’t be con­fined by crum­bling walls and strait­jack­ets.

This play­ground is the first area be­yond the house you’ll visit and, al­though rather pleas­ant on ar­rival, a dark pres­ence soon saps its wel­com­ing na­ture. At least you can take a break from look­ing for an es­cape and ride the slide

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