Review: Among the Sleep

At a Glance

This game is recommended!
While there are many great games out there, this is one manages to be good fun and stay fairly true to Christian moral values.

If you're looking to add a new game to your collection, consider this one!

ESRB Rating: T - Teenagers
My Rating: Ages 13 and up
Genre: First Person Puzzler / Horror
License: Commercial
Release Year: 2014
Reviewed Version: 3.0.1
Review Published On: January 15th, 2020
Played on: Thaddeus

Available from:

Humble Store, Itch.io, Steam

Save System:

This uses a checkpoint system: whenever you reach a certain spot in a chapter, solve a puzzle, or collect an item, the game automatically saves* your progress. There are a TON of these checkpoints, so don't worry about losing progress.

You can pause the game by pressing ESC*.

Summary of
Major Issues:

This game tells a story about an unfortunately commonplace situation many children deal with at home. Going into more detail here would spoil the story, so read the Concerns and Issues entry below for more details if you want.

Screenshots

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The central hub

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Ooh shiny!

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*screaming in toddler*



Game Overview

To say there are a lot of horror games on the market these days is something of an understatement. Many people simply enjoy facing scary situations in stories and games, so there's a big market for media that provides a taste of fear in a new way. Among the Sleep takes a rather unique approach to the genre though, and that makes it all the more special.

The first major difference between this game and most other horror games is the player character. You're not seeing the world through the eyes of a police officer, hardened detective, or even an adult. Instead, you've taken on the role of a toddler. This has several side effects, the most obvious one being that everything is much larger than you. Even simple actions like opening an unlocked door can be a challenge when you're too small to reach the doorknob.

But the biggest twist happens after the first act: after you've been put into your crib for the night, your new teddy bear is taken away by some unseen force. Then, for some reason the crib falls over, and you're left alone in the dark. This is where the real adventure begins, as you rescue Teddy and begin searching for your mother. I'm also fairly sure that you're actually dreaming from this point onwards, as most of game takes place in an imaginary wonderland.

However, this isn't a happy place. It's clear that it once was, but every location has been tainted somehow. And that's the real horror behind this game: through the use of symbolism and scribbled drawings, it tells the story of a very real monster many people throughout the world grew up facing. This time, the antagonist isn't some deranged serial killer or supernatural demon from beyond the veil; it's a real person with a real problem, and it's negatively affecting their life and their child.

Once you start peeling away the layers and making connections between events, you might realize what's going on before the big reveal. I certainly did, and I don't think that's a bad thing at all. This isn't a happy topic, and I think it's explored extremely well via this game. I'd highly recommend taking this one for a spin -- the message alone is worth it. On the downside, this game might bring back some bad memories for players who have had to deal with these "monsters" in real life, so if you're really worried, see the Concerns and Issues section below for the details.

Points of Interest

Failure is forgiving
One of the downsides of being a toddler is that it's relatively easy to hurt yourself. Most of the monsters are also easily avoided, as they tend to announce their presence with an audible and visual distortion. But, should you fall down or get captured by a monster, you'll always be able to continue the game from your last checkpoint as if nothing happened.
Interactive development history
Once you've played through the game, you can explore a virtual museum of the game's history. Narrated by Teddy, this allows you to see all of the unique models, designs, and even look at what might have been if the developers had opted to keep the original (and far less powerful) ending.
Fairly short
A lot of games these days have more than ten hours worth of story to work your way through, but Among the Sleep can be completed in a little over an hour. This is particularly good for the story this game has to tell, as it makes every moment count. There's no padding or unnecessary filler*; just a straightforward look at an uncomfortable topic.
Steam community features
Unsurprisingly, there's a set of Steam trading cards* to collect as you wander around this child's mental landscape, and there is also a series of achievements* up for grabs. Some of these achievements* require you to spend time trying things out and indulging your inner toddler a little, but most of them are prizes for finding all of the hidden drawings in an area. Don't worry too much about missing any -- once you've cleared a section of the game, you can do it over again via a link in the main menu.

Concerns and Issues

Jump scares
With the exception of direct encounters with the monsters, just about every scary situation in this game boils down to a simple jump scare*. These are also annoying common, possibly weakening the overall effect of the actual scary content.
From the eyes of babes
In Among the Sleep, the child you play as lives with their mother after what was either a divorce or separation. While that could easily be traumatic enough, the real focus of the story is on your mother's alcohol abuse. It's never really made clear when she began drinking, but it is clear that each of the monsters you encounter throughout the game represent her shifting and frightening moods. I don't think she was ever physically abusive towards her baby, but it's very obvious that her child needs to walk on eggshells around her.

Now, there's a huge difference between having the occasional drink and being an alcoholic, but judging by the number of bottles strewn about and the way it affects her, it's safe to say that Mommy needs help at this point. We'll never know if she gets that help, as the game ends shortly after the big reveal, but we can all learn a lesson from this adventure: If we're willing to admit how we look to others when we've been drinking, perhaps we can prevent more monsters from wandering around.