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.