Quick Thoughts On: Among The Sleep
Among the Sleep is a game of perspective and confusion, seen through the eyes of a toddler in a world vastly larger and more terrifying. Its appeal is largely wrapped in this unusual viewpoint, but it's so novel and well executed that it's a strong enough hook to pivot a game around that if shown any other way would likely fall entirely flat. Seeing the dark and often surreal world around you from barely a few feet off the ground, your awkward steps making a quick escape unlikely as you stumble and fall in an attempt to run from the nightmares that haunt you, is frightening and enthralling. The vulnerability felt through playing as such a small character is immense, and had me scurrying under chairs and attempting to pry open cabinets as my only defense was to hide where the monsters pursuing me wouldn't think to look.
It's hard to deny that beyond making your way from each twisted environment to the next there's very little interactivity to be found in Among the Sleep, but in most cases this works in the games favor and makes sense given a toddler's limited motor skills. There aren't involved puzzles or elaborate mechanics to deal with, it's simply you and your teddy bear trying to find your mother before the horrors around you find you first, and this simplicity allowed me to fully embody my role in this world that was intentionally beyond my comprehension. Much of the narrative is told nonverbally through the environment, with themes of alcoholism, domestic abuse, and child abandonment dripping out of bits and pieces of the world as they painted an exceptionally bleak picture in an already oppressively eerie game.
Among the Sleep isn't without its flaws; there are moments when its gameplay becomes too shallow even for how deliberately designed it is to be that way, the voice acting ranges from acceptable to weird, and many of the textures can be shockingly muddy. But what it's trying to be, and in most ways entirely succeeds, is something that will stick with me long after the credits finish and I sit in the dark hoping the child I'd been playing as finds better days to come.
"Quick Thoughts" is a subset of my normal reviews for smaller games which might not fit into a full review but I still have something to say about.