Salvador Dali seems to be the go-to artist for game developers these days. Dali’s art flows through these indie titles as gracefully as a razor slicing through an eyeball. You’ll get that reference if you’ve seen any of Dali’s films. Back To Bed, from Bedtime Digital Games, is a dreamlike puzzle game with hints of the moustachioed artiste.
But it’s not only Dali but also M.C. Escher as the worlds in which your character occupies defies gravity and perception. It’s not entirely new as this was seen before in the likes of The Bridge and also Violett, however, it’s quite successful here.
In the game, you play Subob, a representation of the main character’s subconscious – coincidently named Bob. Without going too deep, the role of your subconscious is to protect you, and in the game, that is literally what it does as Bob sleepwalks each level, one that is full of increasing hazards as you progress. A brief indication of his path is displayed with footprints, so what Subob does it place objects in front of that path to encourage Bob to change direction. It’s like herding a lost sheep, but safely guiding him back to the comfort of his bed.
As the levels progress, so does the difficulty. What starts with Subob placing an oversized apple in Bob’s way, quickly evolves into wall walking and making bridges out of fish. Each time you place an apple in front of Bob, he’ll turn clockwise and should there be a gap between him and let’s say, his bed, put a fish down, and he’ll walk across it. Self-explanatory then. If you leave Bob to his own devices, however, he’ll just walk to his death, so it’s fitting then that you place these apples and fish otherwise it’s game over.
Visually it’s rough around the edges, and it appears that Back to Bed came out on the Wii U, and before that, mobile devices some six years ago. It’s apparent as the characters and obstacles look quite jagged. With that in mind, the level design is pretty cool, and there are so many Dali references of melted clocks and animated eyeballs within paintings. Subob himself has Bob’s face but appears to be a dog or car as he walks around on all fours. I didn’t see him lick his balls, so let’s assume he’s a cat.
I don’t share the same enthusiasm for the audio. It’s narrated in the same way as the Red Room in Twin Peaks. I get the design choice, and yes, it does add to the dreamscape, but I could never understand what was being said. As much as you want to keep a certain aesthetic, it still needs to have some relevance as half of the time these voiceovers were giving instructions, but I had no idea what. There aren’t any options for subtitles, so I just ignored it and worked it out on the fly. It wasn’t hard, so not too much room for complaint.
With the premise set up, controls and variety being straightforward enough, plus the abstract voiceovers, Back to Bed is over pretty quick. You could fly through this in a couple of hours, and that’s about it. Not something I’d play again – not because it was terrible, just nothing really stood out. The Dali concept fused with some M.C. Escher was a good design choice, but the audio not so much. Back to Bed shows it’s age a bit and makes it evident that this is a quickfire mobile game that is easy to pick up and play, and perhaps complete on a commute or two.