For many modern video games, the fears that plagued us as children serve as the basis for the suspenseful moments that frighten us as adults. A fear of darkness, the vulnerability of being alone, uncontrollable forces that threaten to wrench control from our tiny hands; these childhood emotions can be used to torment even the most grizzled of video game players.
Sure, the protagonists of these games may have sophisticated weaponry and stone-cut chins with which to battle the denizens of hell. But even with these awesome tools, the terror of malevolent forces never seems to loosen its icy grasp. So what happens when players are tasked to play as a two-year old kid?
Among the Sleep is a first-person horror adventure game in which players take control of a small child on eve of his second birthday. The game begins normally enough for a child of this age: his mother presents him with a cake, there is merrymaking and gifts, bright colors and a festive nature abounds. After all of the day’s excitement, the little boy is laid to bed with his favorite toy, a well-worn teddy bear, and bid off to the comfortable realm of sleep.
But something goes terribly wrong. There is a noise, a commotion breaks the safety of his home. A familiar voice cries out and is quickly silenced by some unknown threat. The two-year old (and the player, by proxy) wakes up as he spills out of his overturned crib. With only the guiding voice of his loyal teddy, the little boy searches his darkened house to find out what happened to his mother.
Among the Sleep features a unique perspective from most horror games, as the player can only crawl or barely toddle through sinister environments to search for his mom. Every object seems larger than normal, since the player is looking from such a diminutive vantage. As a result, a plain coat or boots hanging in a closet could be a giant predator, lying in wait to snatch up young children.
Much of the game takes place in the protagonist’s home, along with a dramatic dreamscape that lurks behind the scenes of suburban bliss. Ominous forests, foreboding swamps, and abandoned cottages all spring up around the little boy. Each of these seemingly sinister areas feature little artifacts of a child’s playing, such as toy blocks or crayon drawings, which makes the realms of reality and fantasy blur along the way. All of these environments are well rendered, with dramatic lighting effects and heavy shadows as a sharp contrast to a colorful world.
For horror game fans who are looking for something a bit different for this spooky season, I would definitely recommend Among the Sleep. This game provides an engaging narrative that is strengthened by a perspective and gameplay that is unlike other modern titles. Just remember, like those fears from our childhood, Among the Sleep can leave a lingering effect on anyone who plays.