As a child, one of your most basic fears is night time. Everything is dark, your parents aren’t around and all is eerily quiet. Your hyperactive childish imagination runs wild, raising your anxiety and making your mind play tricks on you. This is the central theme of Among the Sleep. You are a defenceless infant, woken in the middle of the night and your mother has been abducted. Fortunately you’re a precocious little tyke, so you escape your crib and set off on a quest to find her.
Now in an ordinary first person perspective game, you expect the world scale to resemble that of your own perspective of reality. However, as a toddler in Among the Sleep, your perspective is, as you might expect, wildly different. A truly distinctive experience, everything appears massive. Furniture towers overhead, stairs seem to go on forever and rooms sprawl out like they are the size of football stadiums. To top this off, it’s night time: the vast void under the crib fills you with paranoia and the moonlight shining through the window creates shadows that the Krillbite Studio artists have cleverly morphed into fear inducing gnarlies. There are also many clever subtleties littered throughout the game such as written text that appears as unreadable scrawl since you’re two years old and cannot read yet. It’s a psychological horror; one that many of us will relate to childhood and the fear of defencelessness and the unknown.
The plot is straightforward: In order to be reunited with your mother, you must retrieve mementos of her that are scattered around the game world which sees you first exploring your home and then venturing out into a creepy forest. The game mechanics of object retrieval, key finding and switch pressing, aren’t completely original but are engaging due to the unique perspective: Turning a chest of drawers into a makeshift staircase and moving chairs to reach door handles is thought provoking, especially if you have children yourself, it’s an interesting experience to see the world from their eyes. The game is quite short, at approximately 3 hours long, it’s sufficiently short to prevent the puzzles from becoming tedious.
Your main obstacles in the game, aside from the aforementioned locked doors and puzzle pieces, are the monsters. Appearing as dark, giant, faceless nasties, the monsters of the game aren’t confronted directly as with traditional first person games. Rather you play to your strengths of stealth and size by hiding away whenever an encounter is imminent. In short, if you see something coming: RUN! HIding behind doors, behind boxes and inside air vents is key to survival. Seeing a predator approaching, unsure if you’ve been spotted is undoubtedly another heart-pounding sweaty palm moment that I’m sure each of you can recall experiencing at one time or another in your life.
Designed from it’s initial inception to work with Oculus Rift (although still fully functional without it), Among the Sleep, like many games in the horror genre, heightens the sense of fear, increases the perspective of scale and amplifies the experience of the protagonist’s adventure. Being spoon fed by a giant woman is a truly unique VR experience as is being kissed on the cheek and put to sleep in a cot showing that what the Krillbite Studio team have achieved is a remarkable feat (as shown by their successful Kickstarter campaign).
Krillbite Studio are a creative collective of rather super awesome indie devs from Hamar, Norway. VR Gaming looks forward to trying out Among the Sleep on the Oculus Rift and hopefully seeing more from this budding team in the future. Among the Sleep is available for purchase for PC on Steam now.