It certainly isn’t a non-factual statement that we’ve had a good share of horror games in past few years, and if you filter the genre in context of the opinions of the vast majority, it would be easy to say there have been many that deserve more applause than they deserved.
The trend seems to be continuing on – perhaps not at the same pace as in the past, but nevertheless continuing on well enough to be noticed. Of the few in-development horror games, one that tends to catch the eye is Among the Sleep.
Actually, this one hasn’t caught the eyes of many people at all. This is because the concept comes from a bunch of Norwegian post grads, who definitely have the talent and skill (as you will see shortly), but not the overly marketed formal developer name that many other orgs have in the gaming industry.
That doesn’t mean the guys don’t have a name for their studio though; we’re talking about Krillbite Studio here, and it’s fresh, inspired, and full of energy. Their official blog is regularly updating the status and development of Among the Sleep, and they also have a page specifically for the game.
Now, let’s tilt the spotlight from the studio to the game itself – what exactly is Among the Sleep? It shouldn’t take a genius to figure out that it’s a horror game, since we were already discussing the genre prior to even revealing the title. A closer examination though, reveals some traits that many horror genre fans would recognize, and that too in a positive manner. Perhaps a look at the teaser trailer might give you an idea (and maybe also a bit of startle).
The first impression that anyone would get is that the developers are obviously inspired by Amnesia: The Dark Decent, a title many would be aware of; it definitely has a large part of the Amnesia scare mechanism incorporated in it. But what’s particularly interesting is the main ‘protagonist’ of the game itself – the character you play as.
You’re no unfortunate engineer with a fancy suit, exploring a mining ship filled with necromorphs (Dead Spac, anyone?), and you’re definitely not a two-foot version of the memory-lacking, easily-go-crazy hero of Amnesia. What you are in Among the Sleep is actually a 2-year old baby.
Yes, a baby; a baby that is put to sleep at night, and ultimately encounters some weird abnormalities in the house, after which he/she (gender not disclosed) bravely explores around, hiding and covering from the unspeakable horror that seems to haunt the place which this infant knows as home. Whether it is actually home, or just a twisted side of the baby’s imagination is a thing in itself to wonder about.
One is immediately reminded of Paranormal Activity 2 as well, both because of the setup of the house and the involvement of a baby in some, well, paranormal activity. And oh, who could forget the similar drawer and closet-opening habit of this nameless evil.
The scare formula also tends to work in a very resembling manner, aimed at subtly unsettling and mentally disorienting players with the same methodology as used in Amnesia, and its former spiritual predecessor Penumbra. It also seems to wittily maintain that core element that many other horror games from big-name industries lack – a way to constitute uncertainty and dread in the hearts of players regarding what will happen next, and who or what will be encountered in the next room, hallway, or any other transitioning entity.
The fact that the team opted for a first-person perspective itself is something that adds to the subtle believability of the entire experience. Though it can be stated as a direct extract from Amnesia and its predecessors, it is one that goes so well with the nature of the main character that it is more than just a forgivable idea-borrow.
Players rarely (if ever) get to experience playing as a 2-year old in rompers, and truth-be-told no one would openly welcome the idea of playing one through a third-person perspective.
Perhaps the one key question that needs to be answered is how far this project can actually go. Well, with such a fresh studio that may not necessarily have the innate financial backing, one would answer with ‘not too far’. But what really changes things is that these fellows have managed to impress not just us from their wondrous work that is both familiar and new, but also the Norwegian Film Institute, who have given them a decent grant to carry on their project.
So, having revised the circumstances, most of us would make slight amendments to our answer to the question ‘how far can this project actually go’. I would definitely daresay that, with proper marketing, it could go far enough to match or even surpass Amnesia, provided the scare-content is as pure and personal as it looks.
It’s already easy to mistake this game for a big-budget project, and with a decently flexible and versatile engine (the Unity engine) and a generous grant in their hands, they may well be on their way to present a horror genre Hall of Fame game.
But it’s still a long path to glory from here, as the team has plans of releasing the title sometime in 2013. The creativity is no doubt sky-high, particularly in a gaming era where the borders of genres are becoming vague and the products seem confused – we just hope the final release of the game is just as good as the impression it has made.