For the past week or so, I’ve had difficulty sleeping. No doubt this won’t affect you, and that’s fine, but it was part of the motivation for playing Sleepless Kev. Plus, it reminded me of Paratopic – one of my favourite indie games of late.
With a brief dip in review titles, both in availability and wanting to take a bit of time to play my own stuff, I thought I’d sniff around Itchi.io for some gems that might not see the light of day elsewhere. This psychological experience from Hermit’s World was an excellent starting point.
First of all, I love Sleepless Kev’s gutsy visuals. The first scene is at a therapist session. It’s fully voice acted and without subtitles, meaning that I wasn’t reading ahead and therefore hanging on every word.
The voice-over isn’t polished, that is, high production, but for that reason, it’s authentic. It feels like someone did a Creature Comforts and took soundbites from an actual session, then added the visuals over the top. Once Sleepless Kev shifts to gameplay, it’s a first-person walker wandering around an apartment.
To use Paratopic as a reference point again, the art style has a VHS filter-like quality. As a relic from the days of VHS, I found it’s more a reimagining of a video nasty aesthetic but does it well. I have no shame in admitting I’m a wuss when it comes to horror games – films, almost not at all, but having control in first-person navigating through an unknown space not knowing where the light sources are had me a little on edge.
Also, I hadn’t slept much last night.
Sleepless Kev isn’t a conventional game of escaping the bad guys or collecting coins, but the ideas are pretty accurate from my experience. Many moons ago (not a play on words), I suffered from insomnia, and it’s horrible. You find yourself frequently waking, asking stupid questions and reliving the day’s events, or doing that classic “I’ll check what time it is”. The same applies here: go to bed, wake up, and take your pills. Go to sleep; you haven’t eaten – and so on.
The pussoir in me was expecting something a little abstract and terrifying from an unknown entity. Some of that is true. A lack of sleep can be terrifying at times, disorientating, affecting your mood and so on. This didn’t impact my experience, thinking it to be dreary; on the contrary, I feel that Hermit’s Worlds has done a grand job for the ten minutes or so of gameplay.
The Vulgar Knight Scare Meter isn’t remotely reliable, so if you’re a horror fan, you can dismiss this, but Sleepless Kev scared the shit out of me when you hear a whisper behind you. It doesn’t need blood and guts, just something as simple as someone talking to you when they shouldn’t be there. Of course, I could see where it was going, but it was enjoyable nevertheless.