Sleep Tight Review: Aaaaaah, Real Monsters!
Boasting toy guns, pillow forts and invading monsters, Sleep Tight is a wave-based shooter that fondly recalls what it feels like to be a kid whose mundane world comes to life through the power of imagination. The game boasts a deceptively simple formula that rewards players willing to keep digging into its handful of systems, though repetitive firefights might prevent some from unlocking the game's full potential.
Coming from the small team at We Are Fuzzy, Sleep Tight is a bite-sized, but pretty impressive package. The visuals are colorful and lovely to look at, frequently (and rightfully) being compared to the work of studios like Pixar. The handful of songs that make up the soundtrack do their job nicely and the mechanics are very tight, always important in a twin-stick shooter.
In Sleep Tight, the player takes on the role of a kid who must defend their bedroom from invading monsters. There's wave-based combat reminiscent of games like Gears of War, twin-stick shooting you're used to seeing in everything from Stardust to The Binding of Isaac, with a little tower defense thrown in for good measure.
In your room are four stations that can be used during the day to prepare for battle. At your bed, you can spend in-game currency to restock your health or equip power-ups that let you do things like run faster, pick up more resources, etc. Opposite that is a workbench where you can build your defenses. These include things like walls and turrets, all of which boast a kid-friendly theme. The walls are made of pillows, brooms and Christmas lights, for instance, while the turrets fire Nerf-style darts.
Across the way from the workbench is the toy chest, which is where you'll need to restock your ammo and purchase new firearms. Again, Sleep Tight does a great job of sticking to its theme, as your weapons are toy dart guns, water guns and even grenades that are simply water balloons.
Continuing around the room you'll find your desk, which is where research is done. This will be a big focus for improving your odds of survival, as your options at the other three stations are limited in the early goings. If you want the ability to buy a new weapon, upgrade your walls or equip fresh stat boosts, you have to "research" those things first.
You'll begin each morning with eight Suns and whatever Stars you collected while blasting monsters the night before. While you have to spend all of your Suns each morning, your Stars are cumulative and can be saved up for bigger purchases. You can also spend, say, some Stars to gain an extra Sun, if you find you're ever-so-shy of purchasing that new upgrade.
Once you've spent your final Sun, day gives way to night and monsters start to spill into your room. While I would have appreciated a bit more variety in their designs and color schemes, these goofy invaders are still fun to blast and can pose some unique threats. There's the standard, human-sized goon; the quick-moving, dog-like critters and even massive, lumbering brutes that look like walking beetles. You'll discover more baddies as you progress further through the game's days, but learning their abilities and attack styles are part of the fun.
Each night lasts about a minute, with an especially dangerous Blood Moon popping up from time to time. Sadly, that's one of the few wrinkles Sleep Tight actually throws into the standard gameplay mode, which is where you'll be spending a lot of your time. No matter which kid you decide to play, you'll still be defending the same square bedroom. Eight of the kids begin with different gear/abilities out of the box but, other than that, each fresh run through the game is basically the same. Since Sleep Tight takes a while to actually get difficult (and it definitely gets difficult), it's a bit of a bummer when you finally kick the bucket at night 35 only to start back at night one with low resources, reset development and easy opponents.
Still, much like the inventive kids defending their homes from the things that go bump in the night, Sleep Tight encourages imaginative play. If you want to focus solely on powering up your kid and buying an arsenal of weapons, you can do that. If you want to focus instead on lining up walls and turrets to help keep the baddies at bay, you can do that. You can actually place your defenses just about anywhere after you craft them so, again, experimenting with layouts to discover what works best for your style of play is one of the main reasons to jump back in and start blasting monsters again and again.
Your resources are pretty limited, which is another nice hook that kept me coming back for more. If my health was low, did I want to spend my remaining Suns on a shield that would last me the next three nights or simply go for the quick fix and heal myself completely? Maybe I'm feeling lucky and would rather spend those resources on a boatload of darts, reserving self-maintenance for the next night. Or, maybe I'll do a bit of research on a new ability that will make it so I take less damage or cause some monsters to drop ammo and health. The options aren't overwhelming, but there's enough here to make for some genuinely interesting resource management.
If you play long enough, you'll eventually unlock a collection of kids that actually offer entirely new game modes. I can't help but feel like this should have been available immediately following the tutorial, just to help keep things fresh from the onset. These modes include Nightmare, where you'll be shooting down monsters in almost complete darkness, a mode where you need to build a fort to protect your beloved teddy bear, a mode that shifts the game to a first-person view and another that encourages you to just build the most insane pillow fort imaginable. My concern is that some players might not get drawn in deep enough by the standard gameplay to even learn that these modes exist.
All told, Sleep Tight is a charming package that fans of the genre should have little trouble getting behind, though I wish there was a bit more variety in the standard mode and that the additional modes were available more quickly. There are some surprisingly deep systems at work, but the roguelike pitfall of starting from scratch each run doesn't serve this particular game super well. It's effective in other games because the maps/enemies/gear are always changing, which just isn't the case here.
This review based on a Nintendo Switch download of the game provided by the publisher.
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