Play
Please use a flash video capable browser to watch videos.
00:00:00
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

Review

Among the Sleep Review

  • Game release: December 31, 2013
  • Reviewed:
  • PC

What dreams may come.

In dreams, our minds sometimes try to find ways of coping with the things we can't quite process when we're awake, the things that are too sad, or too scary, or just too big for us to understand. Some of my earliest memories are of recurring nightmares in which I cowered from a terrifying monster. I didn't understand the monster; I just knew that it was something to be feared. Years later, I came to see the monster as a representation of the conflict and upheaval in my home, which I also wasn't capable of understanding as a child, and which also terrified me. Among the Sleep uses the fertile ground of a child's sleeping psyche as its setting, conjuring surreal landscapes that fuse the familiar and the unknown. The game's potent atmosphere makes your brief journey a worthwhile one, even if, in the end, the answers you find on your quest to help a toddler cope with some painful truths don't add up to as much as you'd hope.

The fact that you play as a toddler is Among the Sleep's most unusual characteristic, and also one of its best. This isn't just a first-person game in which the camera is lower to the ground than it would be if you were playing as an adult. When you walk, your steps feel unsteady; you can get around more quickly by crawling, but walking has its advantages. On foot, you can drag objects around, and you can open drawers, which you often need to clamber up onto in order to reach doorknobs or get to higher areas. By making you interact with the world in this teetering way from this perspective, Among the Sleep makes the fact that you play as a toddler not just a narrative conceit, but an integral part of your experience.

Among the Sleep doesn't start off in dreams. It begins in a brightly lit house on your unnamed character's second birthday. It's here that you receive Teddy, a birthday present who comes to life in your character's imagination and accompanies you on your journey. Teddy is a comforting presence, the light he shines when you hug him seemingly a metaphor for the way the support of a friend or the love of a parent can help us find our way through the scariest situations in life. And things are scary for your character, though the reasons why aren't immediately clear.

Sometimes, life is a puzzle.

After being put to bed, you find yourself in a changed home, your mother missing. Your only hope of finding her is to venture through different realms to find four talismans that represent memories associated with her. Throughout some sections of your journey, you are hunted by a frightening monster. Still, your quest isn't challenging--environmental puzzles are never taxing, and it's easy to hide from the monster who occasionally stalks you, though its presence is still frightening for the way that it makes the air around you vibrate and for the staticky outbursts of distorted sound that emit from it like screams.

Most of the time, Among the Sleep is a creepy game rather than an outright scary one, and the sound design is crucial to the unsettling feeling the game generates. Knocks on wood, distant shrieks, discordant chimes, and other sounds lend a foreboding air to the game's strange and imaginative environments, which are quite creepy in their own right. Fittingly, these environments feel like something out of a dream, meshing toys, crayon drawings, and other elements of childhood with fragments of playgrounds, libraries, and other places rife with symbolic meaning. The fact that you're playing as a toddler makes the world around you feel threatening and unconquerable; whatever manifestations of evil might lurk in the fog that surrounds you, you'd be helpless against them.

The environments make striking use of color, light, and shadow.

But venturing into the unknown of each new realm is ultimately an empowering process--even as a child, you are capable of facing the terrifying unknown and coping with whatever you find there. Unfortunately, the abrupt ending that awaits you at the conclusion of your journey feels underdeveloped and disconnected from the rest of your journey. 2012's Papo & Yo was a very different game, but it similarly focused on a young person struggling to cope with a frightening reality, and whereas that game built up to a cathartic conclusion that emerged organically from everything that had come before, Among the Sleep's ending comes a bit out of the blue, and doesn't leave you feeling much of anything.

It's unfortunate that the game doesn't leverage its intriguing concept to tell a more memorable story and that its ending is underwhelming, but even if the destination leaves you wanting, the journey is far from wasted. Among the Sleep is a distinctive and promising first game from new Norwegian studio Krillbite, and though the dreams it conjures might be scary, it ultimately leaves you with the feeling that you're strong enough to face your fears, in dreams or otherwise.

The Good
Movement and interactions with the world reinforce the fact that you are playing as a toddler
Imaginative and creepy environments
Excellent sound design contributes to atmosphere
The Bad
Ending is underwhelming
7
Good
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

/ Staff

Carolyn is no stranger to scary games. Intrigued by Among the Sleep's concept, she backed the game's Kickstarter campaign last year. She played through Among the Sleep once before writing this review.

Discussion

74 comments
00black
00black

Why is it always this person who reviews the games with a more artistic premise (with the exception of GTAV)? Could we possibly hear from one of the many other staff members of GS on an Artistic "indie" title for once? After Going Home I'd appreciate another perspective... Game looks pretty dope though.

Konuvis
Konuvis

Very nice review, I definitely want to try this now.

I love creepy atmospheric games and I get a strong Alice vibe from the environment and sounds.


This game seems to beg for VR treatment.

RogerioFM
RogerioFM

What the hell do you mean the ending was out of the blue? The clues were everywhere, from the bottles scattered around the house, the portraits of a woman drinking and becoming a monster, the pictures of a monster with big hair in front of the cradle and in front of the picture a lot of bottles. 


Were you not paying attention?

Bread_or_Decide
Bread_or_Decide

Oh look a dark indie game involving children. Never seen that before...seriously...never. 

skateryanboarde
skateryanboarde

I watched my fiancée play this, and I have to say that I was impressed. It was short, but it was really good. Great story with a great art style. 

immortality20
immortality20

Hope this game comes to consoles eventually, looks very interesting and I want to try it. Hope it gets decent support.

Ailurusf
Ailurusf

Sigh... I don't understand why my comments disappear. 

Anyway, I'll post about it again. Thanks Carolyn for the great review. I love your style of reviewing, as well as the games you bring. We need more people like you in the industry :)

cratecruncher
cratecruncher

Environment looks kinda cool like Alice. Thanks for the heads up on the length though.  I'll wait for a sale.

haemorrhoid1989
haemorrhoid1989

SPOILER ALERT!!!
Regarding the ending, it's good that Carolyn mentioned Papo & Yo, but she didn't say that the story is basically copy-pasted from that game, right down to the hiding in the closet, the metaphors for alcohol, and the final, symbolic reveal.
Despite this, I disagree with it being underwhelming or rushed here, the metaphors were drip-feeding you the climax, with the constant, semi-audible arguments of the parents, with the painting on the wall with the woman who drinks from the well then goes all freaky. It was obvious that after getting the 4 memories, the reveal would come, which was well executed and memorable, with the final walk in reality into your father's arms serving a sombre farewell to everything that came before. I especially enjoyed the fact that the father voiced the teddy bear all along, it was a nice touch. I'd slap a higher score on this, it was what I wanted from this game, and more.

lilflipp
lilflipp

Good job, good review.
Good game but way short for the price.

Sound_Demon
Sound_Demon

Oh god, another review by Carolyn...

oriontyson
oriontyson

I bought this game the second I saw it but I was disappointed with the length. I agree Caro. Good review. 

ubergusterfan
ubergusterfan

Reviews are so subjective.  What one person (in this case Ms Petit) may enjoy, others may not.  I don't think that makes Carolyn wrong, I think it just means other people reacted to the game differently.


One commentor says maybe it's because it's a female lead, and that's why Carolyn liked it so much.  That shouldn't be a derisive comment.  That may be true.  Maybe that's part of what made the game speak to her.  I think it's more because of what she says in the first paragraph, that she remembers similar situations from when she was a child, that she now sees through adult eyes, and it helped her appreciate what this game was trying to say and do.


But hey, that's just my opinion.  I also like Rock music and my wife can't stand it.  My opinion is just as valid as hers.  (Not really, Pop Evil is better than Justin Bieber, it's just a fact.)

hitomo
hitomo

we need Psychonauts 2

freedomzealot
freedomzealot

Gamespot overrating another crap "indie" game again, why do I bother to even read these BS reviews? I mean really does anybody make REAL video games anymore? You know games that look like  they werent made in a month in some guys basement and take an hour to beat. Or maybe its getting a high score because its a female lead and miss biased Petit is reviewing it.

Dickyslamm
Dickyslamm

Yeah this is a good game i guess. I didn´t enjoy it too much though, (not enough to finish it) . But that´s just me, got bored after a while when there was nothing to hide from or anything like that. 

RogerioFM
RogerioFM

Pity, I wish the game was set more on the house. It could be more immerse since anyone can be scared in a weird scary World, by grounding the haunts in something closer to reality and by making you play as a child would enhance the fear. But that's my opinion only, I still bought the game and will play none the less :)

Morphine_OD
Morphine_OD

CTRL+F sexist: 0 results

CTRL+F female: 0 results

CTRL+F misogyny: 0 results


Ok, safe for reading.

ParanoidPaal
ParanoidPaal

I watched JackFrags play a demo or something like that of this game a while back, and I thought it looked absolutely amazing, at least to watch.

A 7 seems like a pretty good score for this game. Good review Carolyn, and I'm excited to watch JackFrags play the rest of this weird game :D

hystavito
hystavito

When hearing of this game I wondered how they might make the experience really feel like that of a 2yr old, and I also commented that would probably be extremely difficult.  I'm kinda disappointed because there doesn't seem to be much in that respect, but I guess being a surreal setting it does make the world confusing and uncertain which is part of the feeling of being a very young child.

dottore-mabuse
dottore-mabuse

Hello Carolyn,

Thanks for a remarkable review; generous that you add some personal depth at the start.

Been computer-gamer since the Commodore Vic-20' days (that's before most of you were born, and before even the C-64 and eventually the x86's, AMD's, Intels and finally COD-what-not came along ;-)

So rare that games w. a new idea pops up and pulls off their concept properly. This one does.

Thanks for backing it for us to experience.

Personally it had an extra dimension' since a recent abortion experience w. my girlfriend; and obviously also a few 'moments' then when playing it. But appreciated.

Always a joy to see you stand up for yourself and your values in your reviews.

Thanks from Scandinavia,

/Dr. Mabuse.

RedWave247
RedWave247

Thanks for the review, Carolyn. I'll add it to my Steam wishlish and get it when there's an inevitable sale. I really love the concept, but it just doesn't sound like there's enough to warrant $19.99.

Penguinlord1
Penguinlord1

Definitely a game I'm going to pick up now. Wasn't a fan of "Walking Simulators" such as this, yet after playing games such as Dear Ester, and Anna, I will admit I'm quite fond of them if they peak my interest. Good review.

youre_a_sheep
youre_a_sheep

"This isn't just a first-person game in which the camera is lower to the ground than it would be if you were playing as an adult."

Actually, most FPS cameras are positioned such that the player seems no more than four feet tall, so the change doesn't look that dramatic.  I'm just glad none of my own childhood nightmares included fetch quests to unlock something.

demondogx
demondogx

I have seen an hour of this from Jimsterlings playtrough, but it seems like this game lacks a failure state and all you will get are some basic jumpscares


Do you actually have to run and avoid monsters at some point like in amnesia and outlast or is this more something like gone home ?

TheGreatPhoenix
TheGreatPhoenix

@RogerioFM  frankly it did end out of the blue, I was expecting more, then boom suddenly ending. The ending itself was not unexpected, the fact that it happened in the sudden manner it did was.


You should realize that words have multiple meanings, and be less arrogant about your own (apparently narrow) view 

skateryanboarde
skateryanboarde

@cratecruncher You know, people buy movies that are shorter than this for more than what this costs. In my opinion, it's worth the $20 it costs.

Ailurusf
Ailurusf

@freedomzealot I'm so glad that 'indie' games and reviewers like Carolyn are slowly becoming the rule in videogames. I think it's time for the medium to grow up and develop itself as an art, even if backwards conservatives like you would prefer otherwise. 

oriontyson
oriontyson

@freedomzealot Was the personal attack on Ms. Petit necessary? 


And as for bias, EVERY review is biased. Thats why they are called reviews. It sounds like you have a problem with women. 

Aaronp2k
Aaronp2k

@freedomzealot i don't bother with reviews anymore. they are all unreliable now, I used to agree a lot with gamespot but now its gotten very biased and inaccurate. I just keep following the footage and information about the game, then maybe watch angry joe's review and then a lets play. so far I haven't paid for any games which have been disappointing except for gta 5 of course.

kevicus12
kevicus12

@freedomzealot  Yeah man, totally. Every game out there now is indie. There's, like, NO big companies making big budget games, it's all small stuff like this. Remember when those old companies like EA and Activision would release massive budget games year after year without fail? Aww man, I miss those days. Hey, maybe we need some new hardware or something, to maybe kickstart the industry?

ualdayan
ualdayan

@RogerioFM Yeah, I actually thought that myself.  I figured we'd dip into the strange world, come back into the house, go back and forth, but nope.  It's pretty much 'you're now in the strong world, and you stay there until the end'.

lilflipp
lilflipp

@Morphine_OD Lollll XD I though exactly the same when I saw it was her reviewing.

Good review, fun little game but short as hell.

carolynmichelle
carolynmichelle moderator staff

@RedWave247 You're very welcome, thank you. And yeah, holding out for a sale in this case is definitely not a bad idea at all. 

carolynmichelle
carolynmichelle moderator staff

@demondogx There are fail states, you can be caught by the monster, but it is not hard to hide under a piece of furniture or something to avoid the monster. But if you come to this game looking for a challenge, you will be disappointed. It is much more about atmosphere, about being in the world it creates, than it is about avoiding any kind of danger.

TheGreatPhoenix
TheGreatPhoenix

@skateryanboarde @cratecruncher  comparing games to movies for worth is ridiculous, you might as well compare them to the books they are based on. being cheaper and lasting a lot longer.


the game is not long enough for its price. for some people that might not be an issue, but that doesn't mean its worth it

Among the Sleep More Info

  • Released
    • Macintosh
    • PC
    • Unix/Linux
    Among the Sleep is a first-person adventure game that invites you into the mind and body of a 2-year-old child. After the child is put to bed one evening, mysterious things start to happen.
    7.3
    Average User RatingOut of 23 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Among the Sleep
    Developed by:
    Krillbite Studio
    Published by:
    Krillbite Studio
    Genres:
    3D, Adventure, First-Person