The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
imagination is generally considered a happy, wondrous thing. Krillbite's
first-person horror game turns this expectation on its head, tossing players
into the psyche of a child coping with a turbulent family life. Among
the Sleep packs fewer scares and puzzles than I traditionally enjoy in horror
games, but its surprising storytelling helps it succeed despite these
Players experience everything from the vertically challenged
perspective of a toddler on its second birthday. The quiet celebration between
the child and mother is interrupted by a loud knock at the door followed by the
muffled sound of adults arguing. The mother returns with a present and no
additional company, subtly suggesting a custody battle is being waged for the
young protagonist. This sets the tone for the story to come, which spirals down
an Alice in Wonderland-esque rabbit
Childlike wonder mixes with the traumatizing effects of
abusive family environments to achieve potent results. I consistently
considered the real-life effects of irresponsible parenting on children -
something few games touch on - and it made my time with the game even more
The story unfolds as players explore the deep recesses of a
child's imagination. Interacting with the world and solving the simple puzzles
is reminiscent of Amnesia: The Dark Descent, but without the blood and guts.
You pull chairs up to doors and climb them to reach the handle. You can open
creaky doors and drawers as slowly or quickly as your bravery permits. Players
can waddle about on their feet, but running too long causes them to stumble and
crawl before getting back up. It's a clever concept, but doesn't impact
gameplay in any purposeful way.
Among the Sleep is also playable on Oculus Rift kits, if you've got one
Basic puzzles like collecting toy trinkets or slotting shape
toys into shaped holes are fitting for the theme, but don't scratch true
problem-solving itches. However, the experience is less about what you're doing
and the context surrounding it. Throwing a ball at a liquor bottle on a shelf
doesn't feel meaningful, until darkness begins to spread and ominous noises
Among the Sleep is a powerful, emotionally moving
experience, but it takes a while to get there. Momentum drops off after a
strong opening, leaving players to wander around corrupted playgrounds and
foggy forests. While these early sequences are heavy on creepy atmosphere,
they're light in terms of actual threats. I began to brazenly charge after monsters
lurking in the dark, unconvinced they would ever actually harm me. However, my
doubt was eventually extinguished during a tense-yet-brief encounter with a
menacing creature. Don't go into this game expecting to be endlessly stalked by
invincible foes. Krillbite relies on monster evasion far less than other horror
games, a trade that swaps thrilling gameplay for elegant storytelling.
True scares are disappointingly infrequent, but Among the
Sleep helps make up for it with a gripping tale that picks up in the second
act. Krillbite expertly communicates the rough upbringing this child has had.
Few words are spoken, and text appears as gibberish (given the protagonist's
inability to read). Nevertheless, numerous crude crayon drawings, repeated
themes like broken bottles and claustrophobic spaces, and a general ominous
vibe deliver the story in a memorable way. The final moments and the dramatic
twist before the end made the whole ride worth it.
Krillbite's horror game is an impressive feat in video game
storytelling. It leaves more of an impact in a distilled 3 to 4 hours than some
games with 60-hour campaigns. The scares may be lacking and some of the puzzles
are dull to a fault, but this studio has expertly crafted a game that lets
players unravel its story in a meaningful way.
Email the author Tim Turi, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.