There are a ton of games these days that have such radically unique concepts that a lot of gamers are rolling their eyes whenever they see some indie title with unusual names and premises. Some are just variations of longtime tropes, while others are entirely different that may seem surreal and avant garde. But then again, there’s nothing “avant garde” about babies, which this game is about, but how they’re treated though may be.
Among the Sleep is a first-person horror adventure game of sorts by Krillbite Studios that came out of a successful $200,000 Kickstarter campaign. The premise seemed pretty good on paper, or at least it’s good for horror fans who like creepy things of all sorts. This is basically a baby simulator that becomes demented and sinister in no time, combining a lot of things that are said to be the stuff of nightmares. It does succeed in pulling off what it set out to do, but that is just about it.
You play as a baby, almost like the start of Fallout 3 but without your daddy. Having just turned two years old, you get to watch the baby’s overbearing mother cut the cake and dote over her kid before being summoned to the door by a knock. As she faces the door, her tone goes from adoring to threatening just like that. Take that for what you will as you then have the baby walk around and explore the environment, as mewling infants usually do.
So you walk around at first as a two-year-old toddler, and it does feel weird. You wobble and teeter around as little kids do at first when they learn to walk. But you do get to do things like push objects, throw balls, open drawers, climb up ledges, and various other interactions crucial to progressing in this game. But while walking is good, it’s actually faster and easier to crawl, so there’s a bit of strangeness in mobility as most players of first-person games would know that it’s slower to crawl than to walk or run. This plays in later with the eventual horror setting.
This baby simulator doesn’t remain being confined in a nursery as you get to explore more of the house, and eventually beyond it. This is triggered by the baby’s birthday gift, which is an innocent-looking teddy bear, and it’s in that stuffed animal where all the problems start. When you find out that a teddy bear can talk, you should know even at the young age of two that there’s something wrong with that. That’s where another strength of the game comes in, which is the sound design that works to keep players on edge.
The graphics also help, with good use of lighting effects and shadows to come up with the game’s dark and eerie atmosphere. The creepiness does not come at you in abrupt waves like in Outlast, but it snowballs bit by bit. It’s a story-driven horror game that demands a bit more attention from the player in order to get the full effect instead of just resorting on jump scares to tell them “HEY, YOU BETTER BE SCARED NOW”.
But perhaps the flipside of it though is that you’re treated like a baby as well. There isn’t much challenge to be had in the puzzles you have to solve and the monster you have to run away from. That one monster that is coming after the baby could have been made into a complete boogeyman that truly poses a threat, but the only real challenge you get from this game is the waddling about as a baby, and that’s it. That’s too bad since the environments are designed quite well, from when it was just slightly creepy up to when it’s an absolute mess and you just want to get out of there.
Unfortunately, it ends just when it’s starting to get good, being only around 2-4 hours long, and it’s not much of an ending to go with. The premise and part of the execution is what made the game interesting and somehow fresh, but the lack of depth beyond its mechanics is what cements this is a mere baby-walking simulator. While novel and interesting, as well as showing design decisions that should perhaps be in more games, it’s not something that people would hurry to play.
Tested in PC. Final Score: 6/10