Among The Sleep
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