Thinking outside the box is an invaluable characteristic. This is partly what unofficially deemed Portal one of the most ingenious games in video game history. At some point in the game, GLaDOS herself told you, “Now you’re thinking with portals.” Games like these force us to look at the environment around us and do exactly the opposite of what logic would tell us is correct. When a game leaves you at a crossroads between your conscious and subconscious mind, there is such a beauty in realizing this could have been created by a team of people with computers. Fortunately, Back to Bed captures this in a way I hadn’t seen so well since Portal.
Optical illusions play a very big part in Back to Bed, as you try to get Bob, a narcoleptic, back to bed. Since Bob is a sleepwalker, the name of the game is to lead him to the objective by placing giant apples in his way, changing the direction he will constantly move in. The game operates very similarly to Rush from Two Tribes, with the same general concept. Of course, there are plenty of other tricks in the game such as lips that blow gusts of wind, dogs, whale trains, fish bridges, and the like. You know, just your ordinary stuff.
In spite of all that though, it’s the M.C. Escherian level design that shines and makes the game vastly different from Rush. The camera is instead fixed to show you a perspective that is all too tricky to the eyes. What you see isn’t always what it seems, and the moments that use these ploys are some of the best Back to Bed has to offer. It’s mindbending and an utter delight.
I only wish the game were a bit longer. The initial playthrough ended fairly quickly and with a bit of ease. The gradual learning curve is actually very nice here. Instead of frustrating, there always seems to be a way somehow, with the game hardly ever bordering on the overwhelming. Naturally, this is what nearly all puzzle games strive for, but none do it quite as well as Back to Bed.
Fortunately, if you’ve demolished the main game and sat patiently through the credits, Nightmare mode will be available, which adds small differences that make massive changes. Instead of simply walking through the door, the door has been locked and you must now lead Bob to collect the key. While, at first, I underestimated what this addition would mean, I did not anticipate for it to really change the way I approached the level. Yep, even the first level. Nightmare mode adds such a new and classy depth to the game. Plus, it’s great news for players who breezed through the main game and want more of a challenge. If you want that challenge, don’t worry. You’ll get it.
Back to Bed‘s presentation is just as illustrious as its concept, with gorgeously rendered environments and levels that seem to come alive as there is always something happening somewhere on the screen. Whether you’ve got eyeballs looking around and at you, flying chess pieces meandering about the air, or anything else that is perfectly ordinary and not at all strange in the slightest, Back to Bed is a dream.
A soft and melodious tune carries the environments very nicely to give a much more ethereal vibe to the game. At some point, you could swear this is something you would have dreamt up sometime. It’s also very nice to hear all the sounds, including Bob’s snoring or screaming while falling, being sped up to comical levels. All the small touches only make Back to Bed that much cleaner of an experience.
You may not spend a very long time with Back to Bed, but it will be a time worth spending. Those of you who try it and seek more of a challenge will certainly find it within the Nightmare mode. Nevertheless, even in Nightmare mode, Back to Bed carries this celestial sort of fervor that only strengthens that feeling of being in a dream. Just as well, it feels like a dream to experience another game that forces me to think way outside the box at times, not unlike Portal. It may not boast as much content, but it’s still just as clever and full of life and well worth the $6 price tag. It’s bizarre, but feels so therapeutic. As an exercise in wit, Back to Bed excels wonderfully.
[+Escherian level design is very clever] [+Generous learning curve] [+Lovely visual presentation] [+Bizarre and refreshing personality] [+Nightmare mode offers hearty challenges] [-Light on content] [-Main game is a breeze]