Among the Sleep
PS4, PC, Mac
Among the Sleep returns players to a time when they had merely two years of world knowledge under their diaper. At this tender age you are just beginning to hold conversations, everything is new and exciting, and imaginative play is how you spend most of your day. Of course, sometimes life gets a little scary. Among the Sleep uses the perspective of a two year old protagonist to remind players just how frightening the world can be, especially when dealing with traumatic events. Be warned. This game looks cute and creepy, but it deals with pretty heavy topics like alcoholism and child abuse.
Among the Sleep begins with a lovely birthday party for the player, who has just turned two years old. There’s cake and a special present (It’s a talking teddy bear named Teddy, lucky you!). Fun times all around. A knock at the door pulls your mother away, leaving you free to explore your room and play with Teddy.
Later that night, a mysterious force kidnaps Teddy and locks him away in the washer, and worse yet, your mother vanishes. Players must rescue Teddy, who acts as your guide and flashlight, before setting off on a fantastical quest to find your mother.
Finding your mother wont be as easy as rescuing Teddy. You have to find four happy memories that you share with your mother. Each memory is hidden somewhere in the house. No big deal. However, thanks to the protagonist’s imagination, the house has taken on an eerie new life. What was once a cozy home filled with warmth and love, becomes a place of terror where dilapidated walls and distorted shadows surround you.
The game itself isn’t scary in the same way that other horror games are. In fact, the first half of the game is akin to walking through Wonderland late at night. Extremely creepy, but no real danger.
Then the second half of the game kicks in, and Among the Sleep’s strengths, sound design and the “monster,” elicit screams from players. Unsettling creaks, laughter, shrieks, bumps, and crashes fill the air as you crawl through once familiar settings. Warning music plays as the monster draws closer to you, and real panic sets in when there is nowhere to hide, which rarely happens unless you are out there tempting fate.
Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Among the Sleep is the ending in which it is revealed that the “monster” who has been stalking you is your own mother. The game hints at alcoholism being the source of the evil presence with empty liquor bottles scattered throughout the stages. There are also drawings, presumably drawn by the protagonist, which depict a female figure looming over a child. Putting two and two together, it isn’t a stretch to conclude that the mother is the monster. As someone who works with children on a daily basis, the drawings and the final scenes proved to be the most horrifying things to me.
Among the Sleep is a near perfect game. It has a few bugs here and there, and I would have liked to see the house integrated into the backgrounds a little more, yet the overall atmosphere and the dark ending make the game well worth your attention.