If you pay much attention to the Indie game circle, you’ll notice that a lot of the games receiving the most attention are horror titles. Every time I check Steam Greenlight, there’s always at least two new horror games on the list. I think there are two reasons horror games are fertile Indie ground. For one, I think a lot of gamers are tired of the horror games being produced in the AAA market that, in order to appeal to the most people possible, tend to focus more on action with a few “scary” moments. If you compare the first Silent Hill to its more recent children, there’s definitely a different tone to the games. The second reason is that I think it’s easier to make a horror game on a small budget, which is what most Indie developers have to work with. Horror is about subtlety. Less is more in horror, & that plays to the Indie developer’s benefit. Because it can be more effective to not show us everything, they don’t need cutting edge graphics. They can use their limitations to trick us.
Because of this saturation of horror games, developers have to work hard to stand out from the rest to catch people’s attention. And an upcoming game that seems to be coming at horror from a different angle is Among the Sleep, being developed by Krillbite Studios out of Norway.
My first reaction to seeing this game was that it’s Amnesia with a baby. And I don’t mean that as some sort of game offspring, but taking an Amnesia-esque approach to horror while you play as a baby. Actually, that’s not quite right because the game’s page says you play as a two-year-old, so I guess toddler is a better term.
The idea of playing as a very small child adds an interesting spin to things. Obviously you can’t fight against enemies, so as with Amnesia you have to hide from them. From the limited footage I’ve seen, I can’t describe the enemies in this game, but they bring to mind the shadowy horrors that lurk in the minds of even the most grounded adults. The things that play in our nightmares & make me constantly look over my shoulder when I go out to my car at night. But Krillbite also uses being a child to its advantage in terms of environment. To a child, anything is possible. As children, we don’t know that the Boogeyman doesn’t exist, & the fear that he may be hiding in every closet & under every bed is a real & tangible experience. Anything we can imagine becomes reality to us. And Krillbite seems to be emphasizing that with the surreal nature of the environments.
The game starts realistically enough with our toddler-hero searching for his stolen teddy in the night. But even this has a fantastical element in that teddy appears to be stolen by an invisible menace, like something out of Paranormal Activity. From the perspective of a child, barely feet off the ground, the darkened home can be a scary place, with unnerving groans & creakings. Once we find Teddy, he informs us (in a very creepy voice, in my opinion) that we have to find our mom. A natural child’s reaction. But what happens when we find that mom isn’t there?
Among the Sleep is in the final phase of its development & Krillbite Studio hopes to have it out by the end of this year. According to the studio’s blog page, the game is in alpha format & most of the work needed now is to finish polishing the game. My impression of their Kickstarter goal is to support the production team. Most of the only work part-time for the studio, having to work other actually paying jobs to support themselves. With the money from the Kickstarter, it sounds like they hope to be able to support their staff so they can work full-time on finishing the game & tightening everything up for the players.
Krillbite’s Kickstarter goal is set at $200,000 by May 18. At the time of this post, they have over $72,000. That’s 36% of their goal in the four days it’s been up. If you’re interesting in helping smaller developers & are intrigued by this game, help the studio out by donating & voting for it on Steam Greenlight. They’re offering a wide variety of perks for donators depending on what you give. Unfortunately, the Early Bird tier, which will receive a digital copy of the game when it’s released for a pledge of $15, has already been filled. Now a pledge of $20 will get you a digital copy, as well as wallpapers & forum access. But they have any other tiers. These range from wallpapers, soundtracks, posters, artbooks, signed copies, access to the alpha test phase in the summer, a limited edition box set, your name in the credits, t-shirts, a picture of yourself in the studio’s office, or a handmade Teddy plush. If you happen to have $10,000 lying around, the highest honors you can get is to be named Executive Producer, a tour of their office in Norway, exclusive testing of the game & a dinner with the company.
If you’re looking for a unique horror gaming experience & want to support someone outside of the major publishers, check out Among the Sleep’s official page as well as their Kickstarter page at http://www.krillbite.com/ats/ or http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/krillbite/among-the-sleep.