Among The Sleep Preview: Babes in Terrorland
Being defenseless isn’t necessarily a new thing in the survival-horror genre — in fact, it’s an element that many games utilize to great effect for scares, forcing the player to flee for his or her life rather than face down some terrifying creature with their newest giant laser cannon.
Never has a game put the player into so helpless a role as a baby, though.
The first to do so is Among The Sleep, from Norwegian developer Krillbite. You’re not quite a baby, per se — you’re a two-year-old, capable of walking but just barely, unable to do much on your own. The thing is, there’s something in your darkened house with you. Something supernatural. And you have to escape it. Helpless takes on a whole new meaning when you’re not even tall enough to reach the nearest door handle.
Krillbite’s Kickstarter campaign for Among The Sleep, which is dedicated to raising funds for adding to and polishing the core game idea, just surpassed its funding goals, and the developer released an alpha demo of the title to show it in action. Though it’s only about 20 minutes long, it suggests a foreboding, spooky gameplay experience, packaged in the fascinating mechanics that go along with being small, weak and vulnerable.
A Dark House, a Frightening Force
Though the alpha is short and subject to be wholly overhauled, Krillbite’s preview of Among The Sleep seems like a pretty good indication of what the game will be like. The demo has plenty of atmosphere to spare, and starts with the player awakening in his crib, bleary-eyed, as his teddy is yanked over the railing and out of the room by some invisible force. A second later, the crib flips, and you find yourself spilled onto the floor of the bedroom.
Among The Sleep wastes no time in amping up the creep factor. The room is mostly dark, with hulking toys like wrecked ships creating strange silhouettes in the shadows. Lightning streaks the sky outside. You’ve got two means of mobility: crawling, which is relatively quick, or hoisting yourself up onto your unsteady feet, which is decidedly slower. But if you want to use your hands — of which you see a great deal, reminding you of just how small you are — you’ll need to walk, and in order to get out of the room, you must first shove over a stool that you can climb to reach the door handle.
Most of the alpha is spent wandering the house, as strange things continue to occur around you. Doors swing open or shut, appliances and electronics are strangely left running, food is scattered across the kitchen; it’s as if someone is moving in the darkness, making a mess as they go. When you reach the laundry room near your bedroom, you find your teddy in the washer — getting him out is a matter of unplugging the appliance in order to release the lock on the door.