Among the Sleep marks the first full-sized title from Norwegian developer Krillbite Studio. While it released on PC last May, the title has finally worked its way over to Sony's marquee machine. A first-person horror game, the title brings with it a very interesting perspective: you assume the role of a toddler – footie pyjamas and all. This allows for a very interesting perspective of the world, where everyday normal items can fuel the nightmares of your imagination. And it works quite well – at first, anyway.
The game starts with you celebrating your birthday alongside your mother, who is seemingly divorced or at least separated. After eating some cake, a knock is heard at the door, with someone bringing over a present for you. This present is a stuffed bear, which will talk to you, and guide you through the environments that are yet to come. Later that night, you're forcibly ejected from your crib, and alongside your bear friend, you begin to seek your mother.
This is where the creativity of the developer's environments begin to shine. As you're a child, everything from a door to the refrigerator can come off as ominous, and the studio does an impressive job of painting just about everything in an intimidating light. The groans of the fridge, the chug of the washing machine, the creak of the stairs – everything is far bigger and scarier than you'd like it to be.
Sadly, while the first stage keeps things grounded, the remaining three chapters in the game serve up more surreal environments. While this makes sense for the narrative – the creative mind of a child and all that – the world ultimately feels much less interesting. We were enamoured by the idea of a toddler exploring an everyday household, but the bulk of the game is spent in a fairly generic forest area, which could stem from almost any release.
At least there are a couple of interesting puzzles during this sequence. One in particular requires you to collect a certain number of objects, so as to use a seesaw to reach a treehouse. But there's simply not enough of this, as more often than not, you'll be clumsily pushing a chair to a door to reach a handle, or opening drawers to clamber atop a dresser. There's not enough variety or finesse in the tasks that you'll be asked to complete, and as such, things get stale towards the end of the title's two or so hour runtime.
If that wasn't bad enough, the game doesn't exactly run well either. Framerate drops, for starters, can be so severe that the title becomes temporarily unplayable, while the poor animations and voice work don't do the presentation any favours either. The voice work becomes especially problematic towards the end of the game, because the narrative's deeper meaning goes to some dark places.
And just when it seems like those aspects are going to be explored, it all abruptly ends. There is a bonus chapter that came about thanks to the game's successful Kickstarter campaign, but sadly said sequence is a prequel to the rest of the story. It is worth playing, however, as it delivers more of what we wanted from the foray in the first place: everyday environments from the perspective of a curious youngster.
Among the Sleep has some incredible ideas, but its execution is simply not strong enough to stir you from your slumber. The game squanders its impressive opening by spending too much time in generic environments, and the puzzles lack the imagination needed to keep you awake. The narrative goes to some nightmarish places, but it ends all too abruptly, and technical issues apply the sleeping cap to an already mixed release.