When Miles reviewed the PC version of indie horror title Among the Sleep over a year ago in May 2014, he awarded it an 8/10 based on its intense portrayal of infancy and vivid ways it explores horror from such a young perspective. Developer Krillbite Studio has just released Among the Sleep on the PS4, and although not much has changed in the last 16 months, it remains an emotional horror game that only suffers from some minor setbacks.
Among the Sleep begins on your 2nd birthday (yes, you’re a two-year old), as your cake ceremony is interrupted by a knock at the door. Rude, right? After arguing with an unseen man, your mother returns with a new birthday gift–a stuffed teddy bear named… well, Teddy–before taking you and your new best friend up to your room for a nap. Everything seems normal until all hell breaks loose and you find yourself stuck in a nightmare world between dream and reality. Mom is missing, your crib is turned over, and your teddy bear is now a walking, talking, beacon of light, so it’s up to our onesie warrior to crawl, climb, and brave the darkness for the sake of our milk provider.
“…the intensity never slows down.”
It’s an odd feeling playing as a toddler, that’s for sure. You move fairly slow while standing, and your attempt to sprint is usually met with a tumble after a few seconds. You can opt to crawl, which is significantly faster, but viewing the game from so low to the ground took a little getting used to.
Controls are extremely basic, with an inventory button, leaning around corners with L2/R2, and generic sprint and interact options. The graphics themselves also leave a bit to be desired, at least by current-gen standards. Among the Sleep isn’t a new game at all, just new on PS4. The environments are pretty terrifying on their own, with a fog-riddled version of a playground and creepy child-like images drawn about the wall, but the character models are honestly downright terrible. Thankfully you don’t see them that often, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that mom’s part extra-terrestrial, or maybe pulled from an older PS2/Xbox title.
There’s other parts of the game that seem dated as well. The same objects are repeatedly used throughout the environments, textures seem weak when viewed up close, and certain items (like the jukebox) are barely rendered at all. However, that doesn’t take away from the game’s spook factor. I approached the game as an adult in control of a child within the realms of any normal horror game. I asked my girlfriend “why does everything look so terrifying?”, to which she replied “wasn’t everything terrifying as a child?” She was right. Every tree looked like a creature tapping on my window. Every creak in the house sounded like footsteps, and every crack of thunder was like a bomb going off. Every closet hid a monster, and every stranger may as well have been the devil himself. It was that realization that helped me connect with the game on a much deeper level. Who knows what this kid was really looking at? I was just seeing things from their perspective, and yeah, everything is scary as a child when your parents aren’t around.
What Among the Sleep lacks in the visual department though, it far makes up for it in terror, presentation, and one hell of an ending. Taking place entirely in first-person view, my brain has been trained to expect jump scares around every turn. Krillbite Studios did a great job turning that theory on its ass. They allowed me to explore in terror, and cranked it up to 11 once I started getting a little too comfortable. It’s rare that I jump during a horror game anymore, and Among the Sleep thankfully doesn’t rely on jump scares to get their “don’t get too comfy!” message across. They exist, but the real terror is knowing that you’re only two, you’re basically alone (aside from your stuffed flashlight Teddy), and shit could get real at any second.
“What Among the Sleep lacks in the visual department though, it far makes up for it in terror, presentation, and one hell of an ending.”
During its brief 2-hour adventure, Among the Sleep begins to feel pretty formulaic early on. In this nightmare world lies a playhouse with four slots, each requiring a relic of sorts required to find ol’ mum. You’ll slide down (literally) to a new area, scour it for multiple versions of the same item, and eventually end up back at the playhouse to move along to the next one. It sounds uninteresting, I know, but the intensity never slows down.
Sure, it’s short, and yeah, it’s visually dated by an entire console generation, but the horror elements are solid, the environments are truly creepy, and the emotionally draining, gut-punching realization of the game’s finale is well worth the price of admission ($14.99). Trophy hunters may be disappointed in the slim offerings of story-related trophies, and if those aren’t your thing there’s really no replay value here. As a fan of horror games though, I highly recommend Among the Sleep on PS4 if you’ve yet to play it on PC in the last year or so.
Recommended for fans of: survival horror games in general, the Slender series, or games that mind you how scary it was being a kid.
*This review is based on the PS4 version of Among the Sleep by Krillbite Studios, which is also available on PC.