Toddlers and Terror in Among the Sleep

See the world through the eyes of a frightened child in Krillbite Studios game of little fears.

If vulnerability is an essential ingredient in any horror experience then most of us can agree Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a culinary masterpiece. Vulnerability in games is an acquired taste however and usually a mite too bitter for the delicate palates of many gamers raised on brain-clogging McAction-fests. Most modern so-called horror games give players a palate cleanser in the form of weapons of some description, hence why they’re often about as scary as a flattened cardboard box. In Amnesia your only recourse against the game’s squamous unspeakable abominations was to run away or find a handy cupboard to hide in until whatever horrible thing was chasing you gave up up went away. You can’t get much more vulnerable than that in a game, right?

Among the Sleep from Norwegian indie developer Krillbite Studio begs to differ by putting you in the romper suit of an inquisitive innocent 2 year-old, woken up one dark and stormy evening by a strange noise coming from downstairs. Most adults would be freaked out by something like that, paralysed by nightmare mental scenarios of being shot by a burglar or hacked to bits by a serial killer. A toddler doesn’t know any better so our unlikely hero pulls himself out of his crib and waddles off to investigate, completely unarmed and defenceless. Now that’s a gutsy kid. How many shaven-headed space marines would be so bold?

As you can see from the following gameplay trailer it’s soon apparent that some genuinely spooky and mysterious happenings are going on. Things even a grown up might struggle to comprehend.

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I got the same feeling watching this trailer as I got watching the first few trailers for Amnesia years ago, and from just this brief snippet I can tell Krillbite understand the importance of lighting, sound and attention to detail in establishing a specific mood the same way Frictional do. I particularly like the sense of immersion the trailer conveys, with the glimpses of the child’s pudgy hands as he stumbles about and the awkward way he clambers up onto things as a real child would. I’m also rather intrigued by whether Krillbite can make me feel like I’m viewing the world through the eyes of a kid again, with all the scariness and wonder that comes with it. Among the Sleep could well be one of the most unique and intriguing titles of 2013, which is when it’s released on PC and Mac.

As mainstream studios move ever further away from “pure” horror experiences it’s great to see the indie scene picking up the slack with such gusto. Some of the best examples of horror cinema and horror literature - like Night of the Living Dead and House of Leaves - were spawned on the fringes of their respective mediums, so it’s only fitting the most promising specimens of horror gaming right now are coming out of the indie development sphere. Keep that in mind if you still hope the next Resident Evil will be a triumphant return to its survival-horror roots, or that the next Silent Hill won’t be just another soulless homunculus in a tinfoil Pyramid Head helmet.

Matt McDermott

About Matt McDermott

Matt is the irresponsible degenerate behind bitscreed.com.